Severely elevated blood pressure and early mortality in children with traumatic brain injuries: The neglected end of the spectrum

M. Austin Johnson*, Matthew A. Borgman, Jeremy W. Cannon, Nathan Kuppermann, Lucas P. Neff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Introduction: In adults with traumatic brain injuries (TBI), hypotension and hypertension at presentation are associated with mortality. The effect of age-adjusted blood pressure in children with TBI has been insufficiently studied. We sought to determine if age-adjusted hypertension in children with severe TBI is associated with mortality. Methods: This was a retrospective analysis of the Department of Defense Trauma Registry (DoDTR) between 2001 and 2013. We included for analysis patients <18 years with severe TBI defined as Abbreviated Injury Severity (AIS) scores of the head ≥3. We defined hypertension as moderate for systolic blood pressures (SBP) between the 95th and 99th percentile for age and gender and severe if greater than the 99th percentile. Hypotension was defined as SBP <90 mmHg for children >10 years or < 70mmHg + (2 x age) for children ≤10 years. We performed multivariable logistic regression and Cox regression to determine if BP categories were associated with mortality. Results: Of 4,990 children included in the DoDTR, 740 met criteria for analysis. Fifty patients (6.8%) were hypotensive upon arrival to the ED, 385 (52.0%) were normotensive, 115 (15.5%) had moderate hypertension, and 190 (25.7%) had severe hypertension. When compared to normotensive patients, moderate and severe hypertension patients had similar Injury Severity Scores, similar AIS head scores, and similar frequencies of neurosurgical procedures. Multivariable logistic regression demonstrated that hypotension (odd ratio [OR] 2.85, 95 confidence interval [CI] 1.26-6.47) and severe hypertension (OR 2.58, 95 CI 1.32-5.03) were associated with increased 24-hour mortality. Neither hypotension (Hazard ratio (HR) 1.52, 95 CI 0.74-3.11) nor severe hypertension (HR 1.65, 95 CI 0.65-2.30) was associated with time to mortality. Conclusion: Pediatric age-adjusted hypertension is frequent after severe TBI. Severe hypertension is strongly associated with 24-hour mortality. Pediatric age-adjusted blood pressure needs to be further evaluated as a critical marker of early mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)452-459
Number of pages8
JournalWestern Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2018
Externally publishedYes


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