Neuroprognostication of hypoxic-ischaemic coma in the therapeutic hypothermia era

Date Published:

2014 Apr


Neurological prognostication after cardiac arrest has always been challenging, and has become even more so since the advent of therapeutic hypothermia (TH) in the early 2000s. Studies in this field are prone to substantial biases--most importantly, the self-fulfilling prophecy of early withdrawal of life-sustaining therapies--and physicians must be aware of these limitations when evaluating individual patients. TH mandates sedation and prolongs drug metabolism, and delayed neuronal recovery is possible after cardiac arrest with or without hypothermia treatment; thus, the clinician must allow an adequate observation period to assess for delayed recovery. Exciting advances have been made in clinical evaluation, electrophysiology, chemical biomarkers and neuroimaging, providing insights into the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms of injury, as well as prognosis. Some clinical features, such as pupillary reactivity, continue to provide robust information about prognosis, and EEG patterns, such as reactivity and continuity, seem promising as prognostic indicators. Evoked potential information is likely to remain a reliable prognostic tool in TH-treated patients, whereas traditional serum biomarkers, such as neuron-specific enolase, may be less reliable. Advanced neuroimaging techniques, particularly those utilizing MRI, hold great promise for the future. Clinicians should continue to use all the available tools to provide accurate prognostic advice to patients after cardiac arrest.
Last updated on 11/27/2019