Prehospital management of severe traumatic brain injury: concepts and ongoing controversies

Curr Opin Anaesthesiol. 2012 Oct;25(5):556-62. doi: 10.1097/ACO.0b013e328357225c.


Purpose of review: Prehospital management affects long-term outcome of patients with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). This article reviews the current concepts and ongoing controversies of prehospital treatment of severe TBI.

Recent findings: Prehospital management focuses on the prevention of secondary brain injury and rapid transport to a neurotrauma center for definitive diagnosis and life- as well as brain-saving emergency treatment such as decompressive craniotomy. There is a broad consensus that adequate airway management, prevention of hypoxia, hypocapnia or hypercapnia, prevention of hypotension and control of hemorrhage represent preclinical therapeutic modalities that may contribute to improved survival in severe TBI. The precise role of prehospital endotracheal intubation, osmotic agents and early therapeutic hypothermia needs to be clarified in the context of time required for transportation, local infrastructure, geographical factors and availability of experienced emergency teams.

Summary: Prehospital management of TBI remains challenging. There are no universal objectives suitable to all patients. Randomized, controlled clinical trials are necessary for developing optimal protocols for paramedic and physician emergency medical teams.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Airway Management
  • Anesthesia
  • Anesthetics / administration & dosage
  • Blood Coagulation Disorders / drug therapy
  • Blood Coagulation Disorders / etiology
  • Brain Injuries / complications
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology
  • Brain Injuries / therapy*
  • Child
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods*
  • Fluid Therapy
  • Humans
  • Hyperoxia / complications
  • Hypothermia, Induced
  • Respiration, Artificial


  • Anesthetics