Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

2018 Edition
| Editors: Jeffrey S. Kreutzer, John DeLuca, Bruce Caplan

Brain Death

  • Tiffany L. PowellEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-57111-9_300




Brain death is the irreversible loss of all brain function. Including the lack of capacity for consciousness and respirations (Presidents Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine 1981). Brain death is equivalent to traditional circulatory death, which is defined by cessation of tissue perfusion and the absence of pulses. However, with brain death the heart will continue to beat and spinal cord reflexes may persist for a short time (Canadian Neurocritical Care Group 1999).

Current Knowledge

History of the Definition of Brain Death

In 1959, Mollaret and Goulon first introduced the term coma dépassé (beyond coma) to describe irreversible brain damage (Mollaret and Goulon 1959). The modern scientific concept of brain death is largely based on this original description of 23 comatose patients who exhibited loss of brainstem reflexes, respirations, and flat electroencephalograms (EEG). Several years later, the Harvard ad hoc committee formalized the...

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References and Readings

  1. Ad Hoc Committee of the Harvard Medical School. (1968). A definition of irreversible coma. Report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Harvard medical school to examine the definition of brain death. Journal of the American Medical Association, 205, 337–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Canadian Neurocritical Care Group. (1999). Guidelines for the diagnosis of death. Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, 26, 64–66.Google Scholar
  3. Mollaret, P., & Goulon, M. (1959). Le coma dépassé. Revue Neurologique, 101, 3–15.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine. (1981). Guidelines for the determination of death. Journal of the American Medical Association, 246, 2184–2186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Wijdicks, E. F. (2000). Brain death. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.Google Scholar
  6. Wijdicks, E. F. (2001). The diagnosis of brain death. New England Journal of Medicine, 344, 1215–1221.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurosurgeryVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA