• Vol. 33 No. 4, 489–493
  • 15 July 2004

Patients who Talk and Deteriorate: A New Look at an Old Problem



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Background and Methods: We sought to review established prognostic indicators applied to Asian population, and to identify new risk factors for deterioration in patients who talked and deteriorated after traumatic brain injury (TBI). This retrospective study used our prospectively maintained TBI database. From August 1999 to July 2001, 324 patients were admitted to the neurosurgical intensive care unit (ICU). Thirty-eight patients (11.8%) talked between injury and subsequent deterioration into coma. Independent outcome predictors were studied.

Results and Conclusion: Fourteen patients had subdural haematomas, 9 extradural haematomas, 19 contusions/haematomas and 3 subarachnoid haemorrhages. 81.5% of the patients had mass lesions potentially requiring surgery. Twenty patients had good functional recovery at 6 months (Glasgow Outcome Score 4 and 5); 18 were dead or vegetative. Age, gender, type of intracranial lesion and presence of coagulopathy were significantly correlated with outcome. Intracranial haematomas continue to be most significant in patients who talk and deteriorate. Coagulopathy was the strongest prognostic predictor of poor outcome with fibrinolytic parameters being reliable prognostic markers of head injury. Early identification, continued monitoring and treatment of coagulopathy should be our new look at improving outcome of these patients.

Patients who talk after traumatic brain injury (TBI) and then subsequently deteriorate into a coma are defined as those with an initial Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) verbal score of 3 or greater, and then deteriorate to a GCS of 8 or less. Less than 10% of patients with minor head injury have positive head computed tomography (CT) scan findings and less than 1% require neurosurgical intervention.

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