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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading global cause of morbidity and mortality. Intracranial hypertension following moderate-to-severe TBI (m-sTBI) is a potentially modifiable secondary cerebral insult and one of the central therapeutic targets of contemporary neurocritical care. External ventricular drain (EVD) insertion is a common therapeutic intervention used to control intracranial hypertension and attenuate secondary brain injury. However, the optimal timing of EVD insertion in the setting of m-sTBI is uncertain and practice variation is widespread. Therefore, we aimed to assess if there is an association between timing of EVD placement and functional neurological outcome at 6 months post m-sTBI. We pooled individual patient data for all relevant harmonizable variables from the Erythropoietin in Traumatic Brain Injury (EPO-TBI) and Prophylactic Hypothermia Trial to Lessen Traumatic Brain Injury (POLAR) randomized control trials, and the Collaborative European NeuroTrauma Effectiveness Research in TBI (CENTER-TBI) Core Study version 3.0 and Australia-Europe NeuroTrauma Effectiveness Research in TBI (Oz-ENTER) prospective observational studies to create a combined dataset. The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score was used to define TBI severity and we included all patients admitted to an intensive care unit with a GCS ≤12, who were 15 years or older and underwent EVD placement within 7 days of injury. We used hierarchical multi-variable logistic regression models to study the association between EVD insertion within 24 h of injury (early) compared with EVD insertion more than 24 h after injury (late) and 6-month functional neurological outcome measured using the Glasgow Outcome Score Extended (GOSE). In total, 2536 patients were assessed. Of these, 502 (20%) underwent early EVD insertion and 145 (6%) underwent late EVD insertion. Following adjustment for the IMPACT (International Mission for Prognosis and Analysis of Clinical Trials in TBI) score extended (Core + CT), sex, injury severity score, study and treatment site, patients receiving a late EVD had higher odds of death or severe disability (GOSE 1-4) at 6 months follow-up than those receiving an early EVD adjusted odds ratio; 95% confidence interval, 2.14; 1.22-3.76; p = 0.008. Our study suggests that in patients with m-sTBI where an EVD is needed, early (≤ 24 h post-injury) insertion may result in better long-term functional outcomes. This finding supports future prospective investigation in this area.

Original publication





Journal of neurotrauma

Publication Date



Department of Critical Care Medicine, Auckland City Hospital, Grafton, Auckland, New Zealand.