Does early prophylactic hypothermia improve long-term neurologic outcomes in patients with severe traumatic brain injury?
In this randomized clinical trial that included 511 adults, the proportion of patients with favorable neurologic outcomes at 6 months was 48.8% after hypothermia vs 49.1% after normothermia, a difference that was not statistically significant.
These findings do not support the use of early prophylactic hypothermia in patients with severe traumatic brain injury.
After severe traumatic brain injury, induction of prophylactic hypothermia has been suggested to be neuroprotective and improve long-term neurologic outcomes.
To determine the effectiveness of early prophylactic hypothermia compared with normothermic management of patients after severe traumatic brain injury.
Design, Setting, and Participants
The Prophylactic Hypothermia Trial to Lessen Traumatic Brain Injury–Randomized Clinical Trial (POLAR-RCT) was a multicenter randomized trial in 6 countries that recruited 511 patients both out-of-hospital and in emergency departments after severe traumatic brain injury. The first patient was enrolled on December 5, 2010, and the last on November 10, 2017. The final date of follow-up was May 15, 2018.
There were 266 patients randomized to the prophylactic hypothermia group and 245 to normothermic management. Prophylactic hypothermia targeted the early induction of hypothermia (33°C-35°C) for at least 72 hours and up to 7 days if intracranial pressures were elevated, followed by gradual rewarming. Normothermia targeted 37°C, using surface-cooling wraps when required. Temperature was managed in both groups for 7 days. All other care was at the discretion of the treating physician.
Main Outcomes and Measures
The primary outcome was favorable neurologic outcomes or independent living (Glasgow Outcome Scale–Extended score, 5-8 [scale range, 1-8]) obtained by blinded assessors 6 months after injury.
Among 511 patients who were randomized, 500 provided ongoing consent (mean age, 34.5 years [SD, 13.4]; 402 men [80.2%]) and 466 completed the primary outcome evaluation. Hypothermia was initiated rapidly after injury (median, 1.8 hours [IQR, 1.0-2.7 hours]) and rewarming occurred slowly (median, 22.5 hours [IQR, 16-27 hours]). Favorable outcomes (Glasgow Outcome Scale–Extended score, 5-8) at 6 months occurred in 117 patients (48.8%) in the hypothermia group and 111 (49.1%) in the normothermia group (risk difference, 0.4% [95% CI, –9.4% to 8.7%]; relative risk with hypothermia, 0.99 [95% CI, 0.82-1.19]; P = .94). In the hypothermia and normothermia groups, the rates of pneumonia were 55.0% vs 51.3%, respectively, and rates of increased intracranial bleeding were 18.1% vs 15.4%, respectively.
Conclusions and Relevance
Among patients with severe traumatic brain injury, early prophylactic hypothermia compared with normothermia did not improve neurologic outcomes at 6 months. These findings do not support the use of early prophylactic hypothermia for patients with severe traumatic brain injury.
clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00987688; Anzctr.org.au Identifier: ACTRN12609000764235
Cooper DJ, Nichol AD, Bailey M, et al. Effect of Early Sustained Prophylactic Hypothermia on Neurologic Outcomes Among Patients With Severe Traumatic Brain Injury: The POLAR Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2018;320(21):2211–2220. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.17075
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