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Injury. 2009 Jan;40(1):28-32. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2008.09.004. Epub 2008 Dec 13.

Survival of trauma patients with coma and bilateral fixed dilated pupils.

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Department of Surgery, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.



Survival of patients with severe trauma presenting with Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) 3 and bilateral fixed dilated pupils is uncertain. Pre-hospital management of these patients affects the true measurement of the GCS and other factors may affect pupillary status.


A retrospective review was undertaken of all patients who were classified GCS 3 and had bilateral fixed dilated pupils on admission to a Level 1 Adult Trauma Centre between July 2001 and March 2005. Pre-hospital assessment, hospital interventions and outcomes were determined.


Ninety-three patients fulfilled the criteria for inclusion into the study. There were 6 survivors who were all less than 28 years of age, had at least one GCS score above 3 in the pre-hospital phase and were more likely to have had an evacuable mass lesion on CT brain scan and undergo craniotomy. Of the 6 surviving patients, none had significant thoracoabdominal injuries. Four of the survivors had Glasgow Outcome Score (GOS) of 4 or 5. Time to hospital, mechanism of injury and pre-hospital haemodynamic parameters had no significant effect on survival. Of the 57 patients who were GCS 3 at the scene of the accident, post-basic resuscitation and on admission, none survived.


Pre-hospital GCS scores, prior to the effects of intubation, sedation and paralysis should be given more attention when assessing prognosis in patients who are GCS 3 on admission. Trauma patients with GCS 3 persisting from the scene with bilaterally fixed dilated pupils have no appreciable chance of survival. Further interventions such as ICU admission and surgery may not be warranted. Physicians may need to consider stopping treatment and discussing organ donation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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