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J Neurosurg. 1987 Nov;67(5):668-76.

The effect of nutritional support on outcome from severe head injury.

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Division of Neurosurgery, College of Medicine, University of Kentucky Medical Center, Lexington.


Fifty-one brain-injured patients with peak 24-hour admission Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) scores of 4 to 10 were prospectively randomly assigned to receive total parenteral (TPN) or enteral (EN) nutrition. Patients were studied from hospital admission to 18 days postinjury. Outcome was assessed by the Glasgow Outcome Scale at 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year postinjury. The TPN group received a significantly higher cumulative mean intake of protein than the EN group (mean +/- standard error of the mean: 1.35 +/- 0.12 vs. 0.91 +/- 0.9 gm/kg/day; p = 0.004). Mean cumulative caloric balance was also significantly higher in the TPN than in the EN group (75.6% +/- 5.13% vs. 59% +/- 4.26%; p = 0.02). Nitrogen balance was significantly more negative in the EN group during the 1st week postinjury (p = 0.002). The incidence of pneumonia, urinary tract infections, septic shock, and infections was not significantly different between groups. Classic nutritional assessment parameters such as anergy screens, total lymphocyte counts, and albumin levels were not significantly different between groups. The 11 patients in the EN group who did not tolerate tube feedings for 1 week postinjury had a significantly higher incidence of septic shock (p = 0.008). The change over time in GCS scores between groups was significantly different, with the TPN group showing a mean four-point increase in GCS score compared with a three-point increase in the EN group (p = 0.02). At 3 months the TPN group had a significantly higher percentage of favorable outcomes (43.5% vs. 17.9%, respectively; p = 0.05). At 6 months, 43.5% of the TPN group had a favorable outcome while 32.1% of the EN group had a favorable outcome (p = 0.29). By 1 year, 47.8% of the TPN group and 32.1% of the EN group had a favorable outcome (p = 0.20). In conclusion, more calories and protein usually can be administered to acute brain injury patients via the TPN route than by EN feedings via nasogastric or nasoduodenal routes. Traditional parameters for nutritional assessment are not useful in studying the efficacy of nutritional support during the first 2 weeks after head injury. Neurological recovery from head injury occurs more rapidly in patients with better early nutritional support.

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