Cardiac arrest after severe traumatic brain injury can be survivable with good outcomes

Zirun Zhao, Justine J. Liang, Zhe Wang, Nathan J. Winans, Matthew Morris, Stephen Doyle, Adam Fry, Susan M. Fiore, Sima Mofakham, Charles B. Mikell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background Resuscitation for traumatic cardiac arrest (TCA) in patients with severe traumatic brain injury (sTBI) has historically been considered futile. There is little information on the characteristics and outcomes of these patients to guide intervention and prognosis. The purpose of the current study is to report the clinical characteristics, survival, and long-term neurological outcomes in patients who experienced TCA after sTBI and analyze the factors contributing to survival. Methods A retrospective review identified 42 patients with TCA from a total of 402 patients with sTBI (Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score ≤8) who were admitted to Stony Brook University Hospital, a level I trauma center, from January 2011 to December 2018. Patient demographics, clinical characteristics, survival, and neurological functioning during hospitalization and at follow-up visits were collected. Results Of the 42 patients, the average age was 45 years and 21.4% were female. Eight patients survived the injury (19.0%) to discharge and seven survived with good neurological function. Admission GCS score and bilateral pupil reactivity were found to be significant indicators of survival. The mean GCS score was 5.3 in survivors and 3.2 in non-survivors (p=0.020). Age, Injury Severity Score, or cardiac rhythm was not associated with survival. Frequent neuroimaging findings included subarachnoid hemorrhage, subdural hematoma, and diffuse axonal injury. Discussion TCA after sTBI is survivable and seven out of eight patients in our study recovered with good neurological function. GCS score and pupil reactivity are the best indicators of survival. Our results suggest that due to the possibility of recovery, resuscitation and neurosurgical care should not be withheld from this patient population. Level of evidence Level IV, therapeutic/care management.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere000638
JournalTrauma Surgery and Acute Care Open
Issue number1
StatePublished - 11 Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • brain injuries
  • glasgow coma scale
  • heart arrest
  • traumatic


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