Intensity of care and withdrawal of life-sustaining therapies in severe traumatic brain injury patients: a post-hoc analysis of a multicentre retrospective cohort study

  • Peter R. A. Gerges
  • Lynne Moore
  • Caroline Léger
  • François Lauzier
  • Michèle Shemilt
  • Ryan Zarychanski
  • Damon C. Scales
  • Karen E. A. Burns
  • Francis Bernard
  • David Zygun
  • Xavier Neveu
  • Alexis F. TurgeonEmail author
  • Canadian Critical Care Trials Group
Reports of Original Investigations



The intensity of care provided to critically ill patients has been shown to be associated with mortality. In patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI), specialized neurocritical care is often required, but whether it affects clinically significant outcomes is unknown. We aimed to determine the association of the intensity of care on mortality and the incidence of withdrawal of life-sustaining therapies in critically ill patients with severe TBI.


We conducted a post hoc analysis of a multicentre retrospective cohort study of critically ill adult patients with severe TBI. We defined the intensity of care as a daily cumulative sum of interventions during the intensive care unit stay. Our outcome measures were all-cause hospital mortality and the incidence of withdrawal of life-sustaining therapies.


Seven hundred sixteen severe TBI patients were included in our study. Most were male (77%) with a mean (standard deviation) age of 42 (20.5) yr and a median [interquartile range] Glasgow Coma Scale score of 3 [3-6]. Our results showed an association between the intensity of care and mortality (hazard ratio [HR], 0.69; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.63 to 0.74) and the incidence of withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy (HR, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.67 to 0.79).


In general, more intense care was associated with fewer deaths and a lower incidence of withdrawal of life-sustaining therapies in critically ill patients with severe TBI.

Intensité de soins et retrait de maintien des fonctions vitales chez des patients ayant subi un traumatisme craniocérébral grave : une analyse post-hoc d’une étude de cohorte multicentrique rétrospective



L’intensité des soins fournis à des patients dans un état critique est associée à la mortalité. Chez des patients ayant subi un traumatisme craniocérébral (TCC), des soins intensifs neurologiques spécialisés sont souvent nécessaires, mais on ignore s’ils ont un impact cliniquement significatif sur le devenir de ces patients. Nous avons cherché à déterminer l’association entre, d’une part, l’intensité des soins et, d’autre part, la mortalité et l’incidence du retrait des thérapies de maintien des fonctions vitales chez des patients dans un état critique suivant un TCC.


Nous avons réalisé une analyse post hoc d’une étude de cohorte multicentrique rétrospective chez des patients dans un état critique suivant un TCC grave. Nous avons défini l’intensité des soins par la somme cumulée journalière des interventions au cours du séjour en unité de soins intensifs. Nos intensifs d’évaluation étaient la mortalité hospitalière, toutes causes confondues, et l’incidence du retrait des thérapies de maintien des fonctions vitales.


Sept cent seize patients atteints de TCC grave ont été inclus dans notre étude. La plupart étaient des hommes (77 %) d’un âge moyen (écart-type) de 42 (20,5) ans et ayant un score de Glasgow pour le coma (Glasgow coma scale) médian [écarts interquartiles] de 3 [3 à 6]. Nos résultats ont montré une association entre l’intensité des soins et la mortalité (rapport de risque [RR] : 0,69; intervalle de confiance [IC] à 95 % : 0,63 à 0,74) et l’incidence du retrait des thérapies de maintien des fonctions vitales (RR : 0,73; IC à 95 % : 0,67 à 0,79).


D’une manière générale, des soins plus intenses ont été associés à moins de décès et à une plus faible incidence du retrait des thérapies de maintien des fonctions vitales chez des patients dans un état critique suivant un TCC grave.



The authors thank Frédéric Morin, David Simonyan, Mohana Ratnapalan, Stephanie Todd, and John Harlock for their help in data acquisition. The authors are grateful to the Grants and Manuscripts review committee of the Canadian Critical Care Trials Group, and more specifically to Dr. Lauralyn McIntyre, for the review and critical appraisal of the manuscript.


The views expressed in the submitted article are the authors’ views and are not an official position of the institutions or funders.

Conflicts of interest

None declared.

Editorial responsibility

This submission was handled by Dr. Philip M. Jones, Associate Editor, Canadian Journal of Anesthesia.

Author contributions

Peter R. A. Gerges, Lynne Moore, François Lauzier, Ryan Zarychanski, and Alexis F. Turgeon were involved in conception and design. Peter R. A. Gerges, Lynne Moore, Xavier Neveu, Michèle Shemilt, and Alexis F. Turgeon were involved in the acquisition and statistical analysis. Peter R. A. Gerges, Caroline Léger, Michèle Shemilt, and Alexis F. Turgeon drafted the manuscript. All authors were involved in the interpretation of the data, revising the manuscript, and approval of the final version.


This work was supported in part by the Foundation of the Centre hospitalier affilié universitaire de Québec (CHA). Drs. Moore and Lauzier are recipients of a research career award from the Fonds de la Recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS). Dr. Zarychanski was a recipient of a CIHR New Investigator award. Dr. Turgeon is the Canada Research Chair in Critical Care Neurology and Trauma.

Supplementary material

12630_2018_1171_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (46 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 46 kb)


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Copyright information

© Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter R. A. Gerges
    • 1
  • Lynne Moore
    • 1
    • 2
  • Caroline Léger
    • 1
  • François Lauzier
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • Michèle Shemilt
    • 1
  • Ryan Zarychanski
    • 5
  • Damon C. Scales
    • 6
    • 7
  • Karen E. A. Burns
    • 6
    • 8
  • Francis Bernard
    • 9
  • David Zygun
    • 10
  • Xavier Neveu
    • 1
  • Alexis F. Turgeon
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Canadian Critical Care Trials Group
  1. 1.CHU de Québec – Université Laval Research Center, Population Health and Optimal Health Practices Research Unit, Trauma - Emergency - Critical Care MedicineUniversité LavalQuébec CityCanada
  2. 2.Department of Social and Preventive MedicineUniversité LavalQuébec CityCanada
  3. 3.Division of Critical Care Medicine, Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care MedicineUniversité LavalQuébec CityCanada
  4. 4.Department of MedicineUniversité LavalQuébec CityCanada
  5. 5.Department of Internal Medicine, Sections of Critical Care Medicine, Haematology and of Medical OncologyUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  6. 6.Interdepartmental Division of Critical Care MedicineUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  7. 7.Sunnybrook Research InstituteSunnybrook Health Sciences CentreTorontoCanada
  8. 8.Li Ka Shing Knowledge InstituteSt-Michaels HospitalTorontoCanada
  9. 9.Department of Internal MedicineUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada
  10. 10.Department of Critical Care MedicineUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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