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Objective

Seizures have been implicated as a cause of secondary brain injury, but the systemic and cerebral physiologic effects of seizures after acute brain injury are poorly understood.

Methods

We analyzed intracortical electroencephalographic (EEG) and multimodality physiological recordings in 48 comatose subarachnoid hemorrhage patients to better characterize the physiological response to seizures after acute brain injury.

Results

Intracortical seizures were seen in 38% of patients, and 8% had surface seizures. Intracortical seizures were accompanied by elevated heart rate (p = 0.001), blood pressure (p < 0.001), and respiratory rate (p < 0.001). There were trends for rising cerebral perfusion pressure (p = 0.03) and intracranial pressure (p = 0.06) seen after seizure onset. Intracortical seizure–associated increases in global brain metabolism, partial brain tissue oxygenation, and regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) did not reach significance, but a trend for a pronounced delayed rCBF rise was seen for surface seizures (p = 0.08). Functional outcome was very poor for patients with severe background attenuation without seizures and best for those without severe attenuation or seizures (77% vs 0% dead or severely disabled, respectively). Outcome was intermediate for those with seizures independent of the background EEG and worse for those with intracortical only seizures when compared to those with intracortical and scalp seizures (50% and 25% death or severe disability, respectively).

Interpretation

We replicated in humans complex physiologic processes associated with seizures after acute brain injury previously described in laboratory experiments and illustrated differences such as the delayed increase in rCBF. These real world physiologic observations may permit more successful translation of laboratory research to the bedside. Ann Neurol 2013;74:53–64