Limitations of computed tomographic angiography in the diagnosis of brain death
To evaluate the accuracy of cerebral computed tomographic angiography (CT-a) for the diagnosis of brain death (BD).
Design and setting
Prospective observational study in intensive care units.
Twenty-one clinically BD patients enrolled over 12 months.
Measurements and results
All clinically BD patients were evaluated by electroencephalography (EEG) and CT-a after exclusion of hypothermia and drug intoxication. Data collected included: demographic characteristics, cause of BD, delay between in-hospital admission and BD diagnosis and between EEG and CT-a, occurrence of cardiac arrest, administration of vasoactive agents, results of EEG and CT-a. We evaluated the sensitivity of EEG and CT-a and their agreement. Groups were compared according to BD diagnosis by EEG and CT-a (E+C+), or only by EEG (E+C–). Statistical analysis were performed by Mann–Whitney test and Fisher's exact test. BD was confirmed by EEG in all cases (sensitivity 100%) whereas only 11 patients of 21 had no cerebral perfusion during CT-a (sensitivity 52.4%). No agreement was documented between EEG and CT-a for the diagnosis of BD (κ = 0). Patients' characteristics did not differ between E+C+ and E+C– groups. In the E+C– group arterial opacification was observed in 100% of patients, but opacification of the internal cerebral veins was achieved in only 30%.
In clinically BD patients with no electroencephalographic activity CT-a documents opacification of the intracerebral vessels in a significant percentage of the cases. Therefore CT-a cannot be recommended as a means of BD diagnosis.
KeywordsBrain death Cerebral computed tomographic angiography Electroencephalography Organ procurement
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