Safety and efficacy of brain injury guidelines at a Level III trauma center

Grace E. Martin, Christopher P. Carroll, Zachary J. Plummer, D. A. Millar, Timothy A. Pritts, Amy T. Makley, Bellal A. Joseph, Laura B. Ngwenya, Michael D. Goodman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND Patients with mild to moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI) are often primarily managed by emergency medicine and trauma/acute care physicians. The Brain Injury Guidelines (BIG) were developed at an American College of Surgeons-accredited Level 1 trauma center to triage mild to moderate TBI patients and help identify patients who warrant neurosurgical consultation. The BIG have not been validated at a Level III trauma center. We hypothesized that BIG criteria can be safely adapted to an American College of Surgeons-accredited Level III trauma center to guide transfers to a higher echelon of care. METHODS We reviewed the trauma registry at a Level III trauma center to identify TBI patients who presented with an Abbreviated Injury Severity-Head score greater than zero. Demographic data, injury details, and clinical outcomes were abstracted with primary outcome measures of worsening on second computed tomography of the head, neurosurgical intervention, transfer to a Level I trauma center, and in-hospital mortality. Patients were classified using the BIG criteria. After validating the BIG in our cohort, we reclassified patients using updated BIG criteria. Updated criteria included mechanism of injury, reclassification of anticoagulation or antiplatelet use, and replacement of the neurologic examination component with stratification by admission Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score. RESULTS From July 2013 to June 2016, 332 TBI patients were identified: 115 BIG-1, 25 BIG-2, and 192 BIG-3. Patients requiring neurosurgical intervention (n = 30) or who died (n = 29) were BIG-3 with one exception. Patients with GCS score of less than 12 had worse outcomes than those with a GCS score of 12 or greater, regardless of BIG classification. Anticoagulant or antiplatelet use was not associated with worsened outcomes in patients not meeting other BIG-3 criteria. The updated BIG resulted in more patients in BIG-1 (n = 109) and BIG-2 (n = 100) without negatively affecting outcomes. CONCLUSION The BIG can be applied in the Level III trauma center setting. Updated BIG criteria can aid triage of mild to moderate TBI patients to a Level I trauma center and may reduce secondary overtriage. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE Care management, level IV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-489
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Level III trauma center
  • brain injury guidelines
  • traumatic brain injury


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