Traumatic brain injury in anticoagulated patients

J Trauma. 2006 Mar;60(3):553-7. doi: 10.1097/01.ta.0000196542.54344.05.


Background: Coumadin is widely used in the elderly population. Despite its widespread use, little is known about its effect on the outcome of elderly traumatic brain-injured patients. This study was undertaken to describe the outcomes of such a cohort.

Methods: Clinical material was identified from a Level I trauma center prospective head injury database, and a database obtained from the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma Verification and Review Committee from 1999 to 2002. Both databases contain many relevant variables, including age, sex, Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score, mechanism of injury, Injury Severity Score, International Normalized Ratio (INR), computed tomography (CT) findings, operative procedure, time to operating room, complications, length of stay, and outcome at hospital discharge.

Results: For patients with GCS scores less than 8, average INR was 6.0, with almost 50% having an initial value greater than 5.0. Overall mortality was 91.5%. For the 77 patients with GCS scores of 13 to 15, average INR was 4.4. Overall mortality for this group was 80.6%. A subset of patients deteriorated to a GCS score of less than 10 just hours after injury, despite most having normal initial CT scans. Mortality in this group was 84%.

Conclusions: All patients on warfarin should have an INR performed, and a CT scan should be done in most anticoagulated patients. All supratherapeutically anticoagulated patients, as well as any anticoagulated patient with a traumatic CT abnormality, should be admitted for neurologic observation and consideration given to short term reversal of anticoagulation. Routine repeat CT scanning at 12 to 18 hours or when even subtle signs of neurologic worsening occur is a strong recommendation. A multi-institutional, prospective trial using these guidelines would be a first step toward demonstrating improved outcomes in the anticoagulated patient population after head trauma.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anticoagulants / administration & dosage
  • Anticoagulants / adverse effects*
  • Brain Hemorrhage, Traumatic / blood*
  • Brain Hemorrhage, Traumatic / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Hemorrhage, Traumatic / mortality
  • Brain Hemorrhage, Traumatic / surgery
  • Brain Injuries / blood*
  • Brain Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Injuries / mortality
  • Brain Injuries / surgery
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • International Normalized Ratio
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurologic Examination / statistics & numerical data
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Analysis
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Warfarin / administration & dosage
  • Warfarin / adverse effects*


  • Anticoagulants
  • Warfarin