Braksick SA, Robinson CP, Gronseth GS, Hocker S, Wijdicks EFM, Rabinstein AA.Variability in reported physician practices for brain death determination. Neurology. 2019 Feb 26;92(9):e888-e894.
The degree of training and variability in the clinical brain death examination performed by physicians is not known.
Surveys were distributed to physicians (including physicians-in-training) practicing at 3 separate academic medical centers. Data, including level of practice, training received in completion of a brain death examination, examination components performed, and use of confirmatory tests were collected. Data were evaluated for accuracy in the brain death examination, self-perceived competence in the examination, and indications for confirmatory tests.
Of 225 total respondents, 68 reported completing brain death examinations in practice. Most physicians who complete a brain death examination reported they had received training in how to complete the examination (76.1%). Seventeen respondents (25%) reported doing a brain death examination that is consistent with the current practice guideline. As a part of their brain death assessment, 10.3% of physicians did not report completing an apnea test. Of clinicians who obtain confirmatory tests on an as-needed basis, 28.3% do so if a patient breathes during an apnea test, a clinical finding that is not consistent with brain death.
There is substantial variability in how physicians approach the adult brain death examination, but our survey also identified lack of training in nearly 1 in 4 academic physicians. A formal training course in the principles and proper technique of the brain death examination by physicians with expert knowledge of this clinical assessment is recommended.