Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 169–177 | Cite as

The activity of the sympathetic nervous system following severe head injury

  • Heide Hörtnagl
  • Alfons F. Hammerle
  • Johann M. Hackl
  • Thomas Brücke
  • Erik Rumpl
  • Helmut Hörtnagl
Original Articles


The activity of the sympathetic nervous system during the course of severe closed head injury has been evaluated in 15 patients by measuring plasma levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine. With the onset of the transition stage from midbrain syndrome to the apallic syndrome the plasma levels mainly of norepinephrine started to increase and remained high during the further course of the disease. During the remission from the apallic syndrome the elevated norepinephrine levels started to decline. The data indicate that a longlasting overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system is a characteristic feature in the course of severe head injury.

As a rational therapy to protect the peripheral tissues against the consequences of a longlasting sympathetic overactivity we suggest the use of β-adrenergic blocking agents and adrenergic neuron blocking drugs.

Key words

Head injury Sympathetic nervous system Catecholamines Adrenergic beta receptor blockers Isoquinolines (debrisoquine) 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heide Hörtnagl
    • 1
    • 5
  • Alfons F. Hammerle
    • 1
  • Johann M. Hackl
    • 2
  • Thomas Brücke
    • 1
  • Erik Rumpl
    • 3
  • Helmut Hörtnagl
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PharmacologyUniversity of InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria
  2. 2.Department of AnaesthesiologyUniversity of InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria
  3. 3.Department of NeurologyUniversity of InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria
  4. 4.Department of Internal MedicineUniversity of InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria
  5. 5.Institut für Biochemische PharmakologieViennaAustria

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