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Neurosurg Focus. 2008 Oct;25(4):E5. doi: 10.3171/FOC.2008.25.10.E5.

Prehospital management of traumatic brain injury.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, California 94110-0899, USA.


The aim of this study was to review the current protocols of prehospital practice and their impact on outcome in the management of traumatic brain injury. A literature review of the National Library of Medicine encompassing the years 1980 to May 2008 was performed. The primary impact of a head injury sets in motion a cascade of secondary events that can worsen neurological injury and outcome. The goals of care during prehospital triage, stabilization, and transport are to recognize life-threatening raised intracranial pressure and to circumvent cerebral herniation. In that process, prevention of secondary injury and secondary insults is a major determinant of both short- and longterm outcome. Management of brain oxygenation, blood pressure, cerebral perfusion pressure, and raised intracranial pressure in the prehospital setting are discussed. Patient outcomes are dependent upon an organized trauma response system. Dispatch and transport timing, field stabilization, modes of transport, and destination levels of care are addressed. In addition, special considerations for mass casualty and disaster planning are outlined and recommendations are made regarding early response efforts and the ethical impact of aggressive prehospital resuscitation. The most sophisticated of emergency, operative, or intensive care units cannot reverse damage that has been set in motion by suboptimal protocols of triage and resuscitation, either at the injury scene or en route to the hospital. The quality of prehospital care is a major determinant of long-term outcome for patients with traumatic brain injury.

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