Median-evoked somatosensory potentials in severe brain injury: does initial loss of cortical potentials exclude recovery?
The value of somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) for the prediction of outcome following severe head injury (HI) is established. The role of the electroencephalogram (EEG) in this setting is uncertain. In this comparative study, SEPs and EEGs were recorded within 3 days of severe HI in 90 patients, and the results related to outcome at 6 months. Patients with an isoelectric EEG or an EEG with repeated isoelectric intervals died. Reactivity of the EEG to external stimulation tended to be associated with favorable outcome. Grading of the EEGs on the basis of frequency composition otherwise provided no prognostic information. The presence of SEP scalp potentials bilaterally predicted favorable outcome, particularly if the central conduction times were normal. Conversely, the absence of one of both scalp potentials was associated with unfavorable outcome. EEGs thus provided useful prognostic information in only a minority of patients. By comparison, SEPs allowed prediction of both favorable and unfavorable outcomes in a much larger number of patients, and were therefore prognostically superior.