Which ICU For Neurotrauma Patients: Neuro-, Trauma-, or Med/Surg?

Different hospitals have different arrangements for taking care of critically injured patients. All Level I or II trauma centers have at least a mixed med/surg ICU, with most level I centers having a dedicated surgical unit. A few have specific trauma or neuro-critical care ICUs.

In general, severely injured trauma patients do better when taken care of by trauma teams who have sufficient experience (volume). What about patients with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI)? Does the experience and volume of patients receiving care in the ICU make a difference?

A group of 12 trauma centers with varying ICU arrangements pooled their outcome data to see if the type of ICU makes a difference. All patients admitted with GCS<14 with CT evidence of TBI were evaluated if they were admitted to an ICU.

Here are the factoids:

  • 2951 patients from the 12 centers met inclusion criteria
  • Type of ICU, age, and ISS were independent predictors of death
  • Patients admitted to a trauma ICU had the best probability of survival, and stayed high across all ISS scores
  • Those admitted to med/surg ICUs had higher probabilities of death, especially with higher ISS (> 38 or so)
  • Survival for isolated TBI patients in a neuro ICU was similar to a trauma ICU in patients with lower ISS (< 32)

AAST2016-Oral21

Bottom line: This is a fascinating study, but it is giving us just a glimpse of the complete picture. What’s the difference between a med/surg ICU vs a trauma ICU. How much head trauma does a neuro ICU have to see? What kind of nurses work in them? What types of critical care physicians? 

These questions are not answered in the abstract. And they may not be answered during the presentation at the meeting. But they are extremely important, and must be resolved in the next iteration of this study. Hopefully, there will be one!

Reference: Neuro-, trauma-, or med/surg-ICU: does it matter where polytrauma patients with TBI are admitted? Secondary analysis of the AAST-MITC decompressive craniectomy study. AAST 2016, paper #21.

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