Pharmacological interventions in traumatic brain injury: Can we rely on systematic reviews for evidence?

Riza Gultekin, Sean Huang, Ornella Clavisi, Loyal Pattuwage, Thomas C. König, Russell Gruen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Providing current, reliable and evidence based information for clinicians and researchers in a synthesised and summarised way can be challenging particularly in the area of traumatic brain injury where a vast number of reviews exists. These reviews vary in their methodological quality and are scattered across varying sources. In this paper, we present an overview of systematic reviews that evaluate the pharmacological interventions in traumatic brain injury (TBI). By doing this, we aim to evaluate the existing evidence for improved outcomes in TBI with pharmacological interventions, and to identify gaps in the literature to inform future research. Methods: We searched the Neurotrauma Evidence Map on systematic reviews relating to pharmaco-logical interventions for managing TBI in acute phase. Two reviewers independently screened search results and appraised each systematic review using the validated AMSTAR tool and extracted data from the review. Results: A total of 288 systematic reviews relating to TBI were available on the Neurotrauma Evidence Map at the time of this study. We identified 19 systematic reviews on pharmacological management for acute TBI with publications dates ranging from 1998 to 2014. The studies were of varying methodological quality, with a mean AMSTAR score of 7.78 (range 2-11]. Conclusion: The evidence from high quality systematic reviews show that there is currently insufficient evidence for the use of magnesium, monoaminergic and dopamine agonists, progesterone, aminosteroids, excitatory amino acid inhibitors, haemostatic and antifibrinolytic drugs in TBI. Anti-convulsants are only effective in reducing early seizures with no significant difference between phenytoin and leviteracetam. There is no difference between propofol and midazolam for sedation in TBI patients and ketamine may not cause increased ICP. Overviews of systematic review provide informative and powerful summaries of evidence based research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)516-524
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute brain injury
  • Evidence-based medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Systematic review
  • Trauma

Cite this