We conducted a multicentre study of 1844 patients from 42 Spanish intensive care units, and analysed the clinical characteristics of brain death, the use of ancillary testing, and the clinical decisions taken after the diagnosis of brain death. The main cause of brain death was intracerebral haemorrhage (769/1844, 42%), followed by traumatic brain injury (343/1844, 19%) and subarachnoid haemorrhage (257/1844, 14%). The diagnosis of brain death was made rapidly (50% in the first 24 h). Of those patients who went on to die, the Glasgow Coma Scale on admission was ≤ 8/15 in 1146/1261 (91%) of patients with intracerebral haemorrhage, traumatic brain injury or anoxic encephalopathy; the Hunt and Hess Scale was 4-5 in 207/251 (83%) of patients following subarachnoid haemorrhage; and the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale was ≥ 15 in 114/129 (89%) of patients with strokes. Brain death was diagnosed exclusively by clinical examination in 92/1844 (5%) of cases. Electroencephalography was the most frequently used ancillary test (1303/1752, 70.7%), followed by transcranial Doppler (652/1752, 37%). Organ donation took place in 70% of patients (1291/1844), with medical unsuitability (267/553, 48%) and family refusal (244/553, 13%) the main reasons for loss of potential donors. All life-sustaining measures were withdrawn in 413/553 of non-donors (75%).
© 2015 The Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland.