A review of neuroprotection pharmacology and therapies in patients with acute traumatic brain injury

CNS Drugs. 2012 Jul 1;26(7):613-36. doi: 10.2165/11634020-000000000-00000.


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) affects 1.6 million Americans annually. The injury severity impacts the overall outcome and likelihood for survival. Current treatment of acute TBI includes surgical intervention and supportive care therapies. Treatment of elevated intracranial pressure and optimizing cerebral perfusion are cornerstones of current therapy. These approaches do not directly address the secondary neurological sequelae that lead to continued brain injury after TBI. Depending on injury severity, a complex cascade of processes are activated and generate continued endogenous changes affecting cellular systems and overall outcome from the initial insult to the brain. Homeostatic cellular processes governing calcium influx, mitochondrial function, membrane stability, redox balance, blood flow and cytoskeletal structure often become dysfunctional after TBI. Interruption of this cascade has been the target of numerous pharmacotherapeutic agents investigated over the last two decades. Many agents such as selfotel, pegorgotein (PEG-SOD), magnesium, deltibant and dexanabinol were ineffective in clinical trials. While progesterone and ciclosporin have shown promise in phase II studies, success in larger phase III, randomized, multicentre, clinical trials is pending. Consequently, no neuroprotective treatment options currently exist that improve neurological outcome after TBI. Investigations to date have extended understanding of the injury mechanisms and sites for intervention. Examination of novel strategies addressing both pathological and pharmacological factors affecting outcome, employing novel trial design methods and utilizing biomarkers validated to be reflective of the prognosis for TBI will facilitate progress in overcoming the obstacles identified from previous clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Injuries / drug therapy*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Prognosis
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Neuroprotective Agents