External Lumbar Drainage following Traumatic Intracranial Hypertension

Neurosurgery 89:395–405, 2021

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) often results in elevations in intracranial pressure (ICP) that are refractory to standard therapies. Several studies have investigated the utility of external lumbar drainage (ELD) in this setting.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the safety and efficacy of ELD or lumbar puncture with regard to immediate effect on ICP, durability of the effect on ICP, complications, and neurological outcomes in adults with refractory traumatic intracranial hypertension.

METHODS: A systematic review and meta-analysis were conducted beginning with a comprehensive search of PubMed/EMBASE. Two investigators reviewed studies for eligibility and extracted data. The strength of evidence was evaluated using GRADE methodology. Random-effects meta-analyses were performed to calculate pooled estimates.

RESULTS: Nine articles detailing 6 studies (N = 110) were included. There was moderate evidence that ELD has a significant immediate effect on ICP; the pooled effect size was –19.5 mmHg (95% CI –21.0 to –17.9 mmHg). There was low evidence to indicate a durable effect of ELD on ICP up to at least 24 h following ELD. There was low evidence to indicate that ELD was safe and associated with a low rate of clinical cerebral herniation or meningitis. There was very low evidence pertaining to neurological outcomes.

CONCLUSION: Given preliminary data indicating potential safety and feasibility in highly selected cases, the use of ELD in adults with severe TBI and refractory intracranial hypertension in the presence of open basal cisterns and absence of large focal hematoma merits further high-quality investigation; the ideal conditions for potential application remain to be determined.