Ischaemic brain damage is still common in fatal non-missile head injury.
A detailed neuropathological examination has been undertaken on a consecutive series of head injuries dying in the Institute of Neurological Sciences, Glasgow, between 1968-72 (151 cases) and 1981-82 (112 cases) in order to determine the frequency and distribution of any ischaemic brain damage. Ischaemic damage was found in the brains of 92% of the 1968-72 cases and in 88% of the 1981-82 cases: there was no statistical difference in the amount of moderately severe and severe ischaemic damage in the two groups, 55% and 54% respectively. There was evidence, however, that an increased number of patients with severe ischaemic brain damage was admitted in 1981-82 as a result of a changed admission policy of the Department of Neurosurgery that resulted in an increased detection of intracranial haematomas. It is concluded that ischaemic brain damage is still common after severe head injury, and it seems likely that it remains an important cause of mortality and morbidity.