Ischaemic brain damage in fatal non-missile head injuries

J Neurol Sci. 1978 Dec;39(2-3):213-34. doi: 10.1016/0022-510x(78)90124-7.


The incidence and distribution of ischaemic brain damage in a consecutive series of 151 patients who died as a result of a non-missile head injury in the Institute of Neurological Sciences was determined on the basis of a comprehensive neuropathological and neurohistological examination. Ischaemic damage was identified in 138 cases (91%) even after excluding cases who only had necrosis and infarction related to contusions or fat embolism, and infarction in the brain stem of the type conventionally associated with raised intracranial pressure. The ischaemic damage was assessed as severe in 37 (27%), moderately severe in 59 (43%) and mild in 42 (30%), and in the 138 cases with ischaemic brain damage it was found more frequently in the hippocampus (122 cases; 81%), and in the basal ganglia (119 cases; 79%) than in the cerebral cortex (70 cases; 46%) and in the cerebellum (67 cases; 44%). There were statistically significant correlations between ischaemic brain damage and either an episode of hypoxia or of raised intracranial pressure. From the nature of the brain damage it seems likely that much of it was due to a reduction in the cerebral perfusion pressure. This study has shown that ischaemic brain damage is common after head injury, that at least a proportion of it is probably avoidable, and that it is more important as a cause of mortality and morbidity after head injury than has been hitherto realised.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Basal Ganglia / pathology
  • Brain Ischemia / etiology*
  • Cerebellum / pathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / complications*
  • Female
  • Hematoma / complications
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / complications
  • Infant
  • Intracranial Pressure
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Skull Fractures / complications
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / complications*