A dangerous Cushing response in a child: neurogenic heart damage.

Francesco Ruggieri, Maria Rosa Calvi, Luigi Beretta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cushing response, which acts to preserve cerebral blood flow by inducing arterial hypertension, could induce neurogenic heart damage through hyperactivation of autonomic nervous system. Most of clinical reports describe neurogenic heart damage as a self-limiting condition clinically characterized by electrocardiographic abnormalities in the setting of an acute neurologic insult. Here we describe a case of life-threatening cardiac dysfunction immediately after a massive intracerebral hemorrhage in a healthy 7-year-old child. The low probability of ischemic heart disease, the poor increase of cardiac necrosis markers, the localization of regional wall motion abnormalities that are not typical for coronary artery disease, and reversibility after brain surgical decompression are consistent all with neurogenic heart damage. Acute decrease of brain oxygen delivery caused by cardiac dysfunction worsens secondary brain injury in the setting of an acute neurologic insult. Thus, Cushing response, which is a physiological mechanism of cerebral protection, could become a double-edged sword when massive sympathetic activation makes the myocardium stunned.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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