Guidelines for the treatment of adults with severe head trauma (Part II). Criteria for medical treatment

F. Procaccio, N. Stocchetti, G. Citerio, M. Berardino, L. Beretta, F. Della Corte, D. D'Avella, G. L. Brambilla, R. Delfini, F. Servadei, G. Tomei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since 1995 a Group of Italian Neurointensivists and Neurosurgeons belonging to the Italian Societies of Neurosurgery (SINch) and Anesthesia and Intensive Care (SIAARTI) has produced some recommendations for treatment of adults with severe head trauma. They have been published in 3 parts: Part I (Initial assessment, Evaluation and pre-hospital treatment, Criteria for hospital admission, Systemic and cerebral monitoring), Part II (Medical treatment) and Part III (Surgical treatment criteria). These recommendations reflect a multidisciplinary consent and are mostly based on expert opinion. The main aim is to provide a practical reference for all those dealing with severe head injuries from first-aid to intensive care units, setting out the minimal goals of management to be reached throughout the Country. These recommendations need a continuous critical review and updating. Medical treatment is aimed at preventing or minimizing secondary brain damage following acute brain injury, provided that surgical masses have been promptly identified and removed. In order to assure cerebral perfusion, systemic hemodynamics and respiratory exchanges should be normal. Volemia is crucial, and mean arterial pressure should remain above 90 mmHg. Good general intensive care, including gastroprotection, water-electrolyte balance, infection control, nutrition and physiotherapy, is assumed as the basis for brain-oriented therapy. Intracranial hypertension requires an approach based on various steps. First, factors that can directly rise intracranial pressure (ICP) such as venous outflow obstruction, fever, pain etc. should be checked and corrected. Second, Mannitol, CSF withdrawal, sedation and moderate hyperventilation should be applied. This can be done by targeting specific problems with specific treatment (which is possible when the cause of ICP rise is known) or in a step-wise approach, by using less aggressive interventions before than more aggressive ones, with a higher risk of complications. Third, extreme treatment, such as barbiturates, should be reserved to cases with refractory intracranial hypertension. The main goal of ICP treatment is not simply ICP reduction, but the maintenance of adequate cerebral perfusion pressure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-18
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neurosurgical Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • First-aid
  • Guidelines of treatment
  • Hemodynamics
  • ICP treatment
  • Management of severe brain injuries
  • Sedation
  • Severe head injury
  • Ventilation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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