Prevalence, Evolution, and Extent of Impaired Cerebral Autoregulation in Children Hospitalized With Complex Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2019 Apr;20(4):372-378. doi: 10.1097/PCC.0000000000001824.


Objectives: To examine cerebral autoregulation in children with complex mild traumatic brain injury.

Design: Prospective observational convenience sample.

Setting: PICU at a level I trauma center.

Patients: Children with complex mild traumatic brain injury (trauma, admission Glasgow Coma Scale score 13-15 with either abnormal head CT, or history of loss of consciousness).

Interventions: Cerebral autoregulation was tested using transcranial Doppler ultrasound between admission day 1 and 8.

Measurements and main results: The primary outcome was prevalence of impaired cerebral autoregulation (autoregulation index < 0.4),determined using transcranial Doppler ultrasonography and tilt testing. Secondary outcomes examined factors associated with and evolution and extent of impairment. Cerebral autoregulation testing occurred in 31 children 10 years (SD, 5.2 yr), mostly male (59%) with isolated traumatic brain injury (91%), median admission Glasgow Coma Scale 15, Injury Severity Scores 14.2 (SD, 7.7), traumatic brain injury due to fall (50%), preadmission loss of consciousness (48%), and abnormal head CT scan (97%). Thirty-one children underwent 56 autoregulation tests. Impaired cerebral autoregulation occurred in 15 children (48.4%) who underwent 19 tests; 68% and 32% of tests demonstrated unilateral and bilateral impairment, respectively. Compared with children on median day 6 of admission after traumatic brain injury, impaired autoregulation was most common in the first 5 days after traumatic brain injury (day 1: relative risk, 3.7; 95% CI, 1.9-7.3 vs day 2: relative risk, 2.7; 95% CI, 1.1-6.5 vs day 5: relative risk, 1.33; 95% CI, 0.7-2.3). Children with impaired autoregulation were older (12.3 yr [SD, 1.3 yr] vs 8.7 yr [SD, 1.1 yr]; p = 0.04) and tended to have subdural hematoma (64% vs 44%), epidural hematoma (29% vs 17%), and subarachnoid hemorrhage (36% vs 28%). Eight children (53%) were discharged home with ongoing impaired cerebral autoregulation.

Conclusions: Impaired cerebral autoregulation is common in children with complex mild traumatic brain injury, despite reassuring admission Glasgow Coma Scale 13-15. Children with complex mild traumatic brain injury have abnormal cerebrovascular hemodynamics, mostly during the first 5 days. Impairment commonly extends to the contralateral hemisphere and discharge of children with ongoing impaired cerebral autoregulation is common.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain Concussion / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Concussion / epidemiology
  • Brain Concussion / physiopathology*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric*
  • Intracranial Hemorrhage, Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Intracranial Hemorrhage, Traumatic / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Trauma Centers
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial