Objectives: To relate early somatosensory evoked potential grades from comatose traumatic brain injury patients to neuropsychological and functional outcome 1 yr later; to determine the day (within the first week after traumatic brain injury) that somatosensory evoked potential grade best correlates with outcome; to determine whether somatosensory evoked potential grade improvement in the first week after traumatic brain injury is associated with improved outcome.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: Critical care unit at a university hospital.
Patients: Median nerve somatosensory evoked potentials were obtained from 81 comatose patients with traumatic brain injury. Somatosensory evoked potential grades were calculated from results obtained on days 1, 3, and 7 after traumatic brain injury. Glasgow Outcome Scale, Barthel Index, Rivermead Head Injury Follow-up Questionnaire, General Health Questionnaire, Stroop Color-Word Test, Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task, and Symbol-Digit Modalities Test scores were obtained 1 yr after injury.
Measurements and Main Results: Somatosensory evoked potential grade on days 1, 3, and 7 related significantly with Glasgow Outcome Scale and Barthel scores (day 3 better than day 1) but did not relate with Rivermead Head Injury Follow-up Questionnaire or General Health Questionnaire scores. Day 3 and day 7 somatosensory evoked potential grades related significantly with Stroop scores. Day 3 somatosensory evoked potential grades related significantly with Symbol-Digit Modalities Test scores. Patients with bilaterally present but abnormal somatosensory evoked potentials, whose somatosensory evoked potential grade improved between days 1 and 3, had marginally better functional outcome than those without somatosensory evoked potential grade improvement.
Conclusions: Day 3 somatosensory evoked potential grade related to information-processing speed, working memory, and the ability to attend to tasks 1 yr after traumatic brain injury. Day 3 somatosensory evoked potential grade had the strongest relationship with functional outcome. Somatosensory evoked potential grades were not related to emotional well-being.