Middle cerebral artery (MCA) blood flow velocity was measured daily by transcranial Doppler ultrasonography in 121 patients with severe (50), moderate (16) and minor (55) head injury during their hospital stay, and the results compared with findings in control subjects. Admission MCA velocity was significantly lower after severe 35.8 (31.9-39.7) cm/s, mean (95% confidence limits), moderate 45.5 (40.0-51.0) cm/s and minor 51.7 (47.9-55.5) cm/s head injury when compared with normal controls 60.1 (56.9-63.3) cm/s. Initial mean velocity in severe head injury was significantly lower than in moderate and minor injury. At discharge, MCA velocity in severe injury remained below normal 46.2 (43.2-49.0) cm/s, whereas, in moderate and minor injury flow velocity had returned to normal. Correlation (r = 0.46, p less than 0.01) was found between MCA velocity and Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) on admission but not on discharge. Persistently low flow velocity was found in all 10 patients who died within 72 hours (early deaths). An admission MCA velocity of less than 28 cm/s correctly predicted 80% of the early deaths. Patients who made a good recovery or had only moderate disability at six months showed a significant increase in velocity from admission 36.2 (31.5-41.2) cm/s to discharge 47.8 (43.7-51.9) cm/s in contrast to those who were severely disabled, in whom velocity generally remained low.
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