Objective: Severely head-injured patients have traditionally been maintained in the head-up position to ameliorate the effects of increased intracranial pressure (ICP). However, it has been reported that the supine position may improve cerebral perfusion pressure (CPP) and outcome. We sought to determine the impact of supine and 30 degrees semirecumbent postures on cerebrovascular dynamics and global as well as regional cerebral oxygenation within 24 hours of trauma.
Methods: Patients with a closed head injury and a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 8 or less were included in the study. On admission to the neurocritical care unit, a standardized protocol aimed at minimizing secondary insults was instituted, and the influences of head posture were evaluated after all acute necessary interventions had been performed. ICP, CPP, mean arterial pressure, global cerebral oxygenation, and regional cerebral oxygenation were noted at 0 and 30 degrees of head elevation.
Results: We studied 38 patients with severe closed head injury. The median Glasgow Coma Scale score was 7.0, and the mean age was 34.05 +/- 16.02 years. ICP was significantly lower at 30 degrees than at 0 degrees of head elevation (P = 0.0005). Mean arterial pressure remained relatively unchanged. CPP was slightly but not significantly higher at 30 degrees than at 0 degrees (P = 0.412). However, global venous cerebral oxygenation and regional cerebral oxygenation were not affected significantly by head elevation. All global venous cerebral oxygenation values were above the critical threshold for ischemia at 0 and 30 degrees.
Conclusion: Routine nursing of patients with severe head injury at 30 degrees of head elevation within 24 hours after trauma leads to a consistent reduction of ICP (statistically significant) and an improvement in CPP (although not statistically significant) without concomitant deleterious changes in cerebral oxygenation.