University of Thessaly
University of Thessaly

University of Thessaly-Medical Department

University of Thessaly-Medical School
ISSN: 1792-801X



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September 25, 2011 9th HelMedica Issue  Article 2.1e

TOP FIVE. The five most important medical news of the last trimester.

Assiduity : Tsintou Magdalini*
Department : Medical School, University of Thessaly
*Editor in Chief, reviewer, webmaster.

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        August 31, 2011.

        New brain death guidelines for infants and children have been issued. Updated for the first time in nearly 25 years, the recommendations provide step-by-step instructions to help guide clinical decision making.

        "These revised pediatric death diagnostic guidelines are intended to provide an updated framework in an effort to promote standardization of the neurologic examination and use of ancillary studies," reports the task force, led by Thomas Nakagawa, MD, from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

        A standardized checklist, provided to help ensure all components of the examination are carried out, is included as an appendix, the authors note, but they emphasize the importance of supporting families going through the loss of their child.

        "Diagnosing brain death must never be rushed or take priority over the needs of the patient or the family," they conclude. "Physicians are obligated to provide support and guidance for families as they face difficult end-of-life decisions and attempt to understand what has happened to their child."

        Also involved in the guidelines, published online August 28 in Pediatrics, is the Society of Critical Care Medicine, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Child Neurology Society. The document was also reviewed and endorsed by a number of other societies, including the American Academy of Neurology.

        Because of insufficient data in the literature, recommendations for preterm infants younger than 37 weeks' gestational age are not included in these recommendations.

        2 Exams

        "[B]rain death in term newborns, infants and children is a clinical diagnosis based on the absence of neurologic function with a known irreversible cause of coma," the authors write.

        The guidelines state that hypotension, hypothermia, and metabolic disturbances should be treated and corrected. Medications that can interfere with the neurologic examination and apnea testing should be discontinued, allowing for adequate clearance before proceeding.

        The task force calls for 2 examinations, including apnea testing, separated by an observation period. They recommend that examinations be performed by different attending physicians. However, apnea testing may be performed by the same physician.

        The guidelines recommend an observation period of 24 hours for term newborns to children aged 30 days. For infants and children up to age 18 years, the guidelines call for a 12-hour observation period.

        The first examination determines whether the child has met the accepted neurologic examination criteria for brain death, the authors write. The second confirms brain death based on an unchanged and irreversible condition.

        The task force suggests that assessment of neurologic function after cardiopulmonary resuscitation or other severe acute brain injuries be deferred for 24 hours or longer if there are concerns or inconsistencies in the examination.

        Apnea testing to support the diagnosis of brain death must be performed safely and requires documentation of an arterial PaCO2 level 20 mm Hg above the baseline and 60 mm Hg or higher, with no respiratory effort, during the testing period. If the apnea test cannot be safely completed, an ancillary study should be performed.

        The guidelines state that "[a]ncillary studies (electroencephalogram and radionuclide cerebral blood flow) are not required to establish brain death and are not a substitute for the neurologic examination."

        The task force says these studies may be used when components of the examination or apnea testing cannot be completed safely because of the underlying medical condition. They can also be considered if there is uncertainty about the results of the neurologic examination, if a medication effect may be present, or to reduce the interexamination observation period.

        When ancillary studies are used, a second clinical examination and apnea test should be performed, and components that can be completed must remain consistent with brain death.

        The complete guidelines are available online.

        Last June, new brain death guidelines for adults were issued. Unlike these recommendations, the guidelines call for only 1 exam. "The original guideline did not require this either," Gary Gronseth, MD, from the University of Kansas, Kansas City, told Medscape Medical News at the time. "Some people may object, but we found that 1 exam was sufficient."

        The guideline authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.





Pediatrics. Published online August 28, 2011.





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