Targeted Hypernatremia In Trauma Brain Injury: Does This Work?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) frightens and confuses most trauma professionals. The brain and its workings are a mystery, and there is very little real science behind a lot of what we do for TBI. One thing that we do know is that intracranial hypertension is bad. And another is that we do have some potent drugs (mannitol, hypertonic saline) to treat it emergently.

So if we can “dry out” the brain tissue on a moment’s notice and drop the ICP a bit with a hit of sodium, doesn’t it stand to reason that elevating the sodium level constantly might keep the brain from becoming edematous in the first place? Many neurosurgeons buy into this, and have developed protocols to maintain serum sodium levels in the mid-140s and higher. But what about the science?

A nice review was published in Neurocritical care which identified the 3 (!) papers that have promoted this practice in humans with TBI. In general, there was a decrease in ICP in the patients in the cited papers. Unfortunately, there were also a number of serious and sometimes fatal complications, including pulmonary edema and renal failure requiring hemodialysis. These complications generally correlated with the degree of hypernatremia induced. Papers were also reviewed that involved patients with other brain injury, not caused by trauma. Results were similar.

Bottom line: There is no good literature support, standard of care, or even consensus opinion for prophylactically inducing hypernatremia in patients with TBI. The little literature there is involves patients with severe TBI and ICP monitors in place. There is nothing written yet that justifies the expense (ICU level care) and patient discomfort (frequent blood draws) of using this therapy in patients with milder brain injury and a reliable physical exam. If you want to try out this relatively untried therapy, do us all a favor and design a nice study to show that the benefits truly outweigh the risks. 

And if you can point me to some supportive literature that I’ve missed, please do so!

Related posts:

References:

  • Induced and sustained hypernatremia for the prevention and treatment of cerebral edema following brain injury. Neurocrit Care 19:222-231, 2013.
  • Continuous hyperosmolar therapy for traumatic brain injury-induced cerebral edema: as good as it gets, or an iatrogenic secondary insult? J Clin Neurosci 20:30-31, 2013.
  • Continuous hypertonic saline therapy and the occurrence of complications in neurocritically ill patients. Crit Care Med 37(4):1433-1441, 2009. -> Letter to the editor Crit Care Med 37(8):2490-2491, 2009.

How To Craft A Clinical Practice Guideline

All US trauma centers verified by the American College of Surgeons are required to have clinical practice guidelines (CPG). Trauma centers around the world generally have them, but may not be required to by their designating authority. But don’t confuse a policy about clinical management, say for head injury, with a real CPG. Policies are generally broad statements about how you (are supposed to) do things, whereas a CPG is a specific set of rules you use when managing a specific patient problem.

  1. Look around; don’t reinvent the wheel! This is the first mistake nearly every center makes. It seems like most want to spend hours and hours combing through the literature, trying to synthesize it and come up with a CPG from scratch. Guess what? Hundreds of other centers have already done this! And many have posted theirs online for all to see and learn from. Take advantage of their generosity. Look at several. Find the one that comes closest to meeting your needs. Then “borrow” it.
  2. Review the newest literature. Any existing CPG should have been created using the most up to date literature at the time. But that could have been several years ago. Look for anything new (and significant) that may require a few tweaks to the existing CPG.
  3. Create your draft, customizing it to your hospital. Doing things exactly the same as another center doesn’t always make sense, and it may not be possible. Tweak the protocols to match your resources and local standards of care. But don’t stray too far off of what the literature tells you is right.
  4. Make sure it is actionable. It should not be a literature summary, or a bunch of wishy-washy statements saying you could do this or consider doing that. Your CPG should spell out exactly what to do and when. (see examples below)
  5. Create a concise flow diagram. The fewer boxes the better. This needs to be easy to follow and simple to understand. It must fit on one page!
  6. Get buy-in from all services involved. Don’t try to implement your CPG by fiat. Use your draft as a launching pad. Let everyone who will be involved with it have their say, and be prepared to make some minor modifications to get buy-in from as many people as possible.
  7. Educate everybody! Start a campaign to explain the rationale and details of your CPG to everyone: physicians, nurses, techs, etc. Give educational presentations. You don’t want the eventual implementation to surprise anyone. Your colleagues don’t like surprises and will be less likely to follow along.
  8. Roll it out. Create processes and a timeline to roll it out. Give everyone several months to get used to it.
  9. Now monitor it! It makes no sense to implement something that no one follows. Create a monitoring system using your PI program. Include it in your reports or dashboards so providers can see how they are doing. And if you really want participation, let providers see how they are doing compared to their colleagues. Everyone wants to be the top dog.

Some sample CPGs:

DVT Prophylaxis At Home: Do Our Patients Do What They Are Told?

Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) is a big potential problem for many trauma patients, particularly those with orthopedic injuries. Patients at high risk are frequently given a prophylaxis regimen to take home after discharge while they are still at higher risk for clots. The particular choice of medication typically comes down to oral (warfarin or aspirin) vs injectable (low molecular weight heparin (LMWH)).

There is quite a bit of literature on patient compliance with their medication routines, or should I say noncompliance? The group at ShockTrauma in Baltimore evaluated how well orthopedic surgery patients adhered to their prescribed DVT prophylaxis schedule after discharge.

They conducted a randomized, prospective trial on all patients who underwent operative management of extremity or pelvic fractures. These patients were prescribed either oral low dose aspirin (81mg) or subcutaneous injections of LMWH (30mg bid). All completed a standardized 8-question tool to gauge their compliance with the medication regimen. Nicely, a power analysis was performed to identify the minimum number of patients needed to achieve statistical significance ( 126 total patients).

Here are the factoids:

  • Of 1450 potential patients undergoing operative fracture fixation, 329 were eligible for the study. All but 150 were excluded primarily due to no need for prophylaxis or inability to contact.
  • Overall adherence to the prophylaxis plan was fairly high, with 65% of patients having high adherence, 21% medium, and 20% low.
  • A quarter of the LMWH patients felt “hassled” by their regimen, while only 9% of the aspirin group did
  • LMWH prophylaxis was associated with low or medium adherence
  • Having to self-administer the prophylactic agent, being a male, and young was also associated with lower compliance

Bottom line: Interesting study. And unfortunately it suggests that our patients don’t always do what they are told, especially if they have to stick themselves with needles. So they may not be getting the prophylaxis we think they are. Furthermore, we’re not even sure if aspirin (or LMWH for that matter) make a difference in the incidence of death or major pulmonary embolism in these patients.

There are a lot of opportunities for mayhem in this study. A third of the enrolled patients were not even compliant with completing the survey. This is certainly a source of bias, and most likely suggests that the overall compliance rates would have been even lower if they had. 

Keep in mind the risk factors for compliance (age, sex, drug route) when deciding how and what to provide for DVT prophylaxis. Your patient may not be doing what you assume they are!

The March 2018 Trauma MedEd Newsletter Is Here!

Welcome to the current newsletter. In this one, I discuss the use of a “hybrid room” for trauma patients. Here are some of the things I cover:

  • What Is A Hybrid OR?
  • Why Use A Hybrid OR For Trauma?
  • Is The Hybrid OR For Trauma Useful?
  • Which Patients May Benefit From A Hybrid OR?
  • So You Want Your Own Hybrid Room?!

To download the current issue, just click here! Or copy this link into your browser: http://bit.ly/TME201803.

The Lucas CPR Device And Pregnancy

Here’s an image of the Lucas automated CPR device. Here’s a question for you: can you use the Lucas chest compression device in a pregnant patient?

The official company answer is “no.” Obviously, this is one those areas that is tough to get research approval on, and the number of pregnant patients who might need it is very small. So basically, we have little experience to go on.

That being said, the reality is that prehospital agencies can and do use it for these patients on occasion. There is only one published case report that I could find (see reference below). The thing that makes using this device a little more challenging is that, to optimize blood pressure, late term pregnant patients need to have the uterus rolled off of the vena cava. This means tipping the patient to her left.

As you can see from the picture above, the design of the Lucas makes this a bit difficult. However, it can be done, either by tipping the board the patient is on or wedging something under the right side of the back plate.

And as always, make sure that you adhere to your local policies and procedures, or have permission from your medical director to use this device in this particular situation.

Reference: Cardiac arrest and resuscitation with an automatic mechanical chest compression device (LUCAS) due to anaphylaxis of a woman receiving caesarean section because of pre-eclampsia. Resuscitation 68(1):155-159, 2005.