Hypothesis: To identify significant risk factors associated with mortality in patients with a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 3. Design: Trauma registry study. Setting: Level I urban trauma center. Patients: A total of 760 patients with head injury with an admission Glasgow Coma Scale score of 3. Analysis was performed in all patients and in only patients who reached the hospital alive and had no major extracranial injuries (exclusion of patients with a chest or abdominal Abbreviated Injury Score [AIS] >3). Main Outcome Measures: Stepwise logistic regression analysis was used to identify independent risk factors associated with mortality. Results: Blunt trauma accounted for 477 (63%) and penetrating trauma for 283 (37%) of the 760 head injuries. Penetrating trauma was significantly more likely to be associated with a lack of vital signs on admission (15% vs 9%; P = .03). Overall mortality was 76% (94% for penetrating injuries and 65% for blunt injuries; P<.001). Overall, 79% of patients had a head AIS of 4 or greater. Mortality in the subgroup was 64% (320/497) and was significantly higher in penetrating vs blunt trauma (89% vs 52%; P<.001). Penetrating trauma, high head AIS, hypotension on admission, and age older than 55 years were independent significant risk factors associated with mortality. Only 10% of the 177 survivors had good functional outcome at hospital discharge. Eighty-six patients (17% of those with vital signs on admission) became organ donors. Conclusions: Patients with head injury with an admission Glasgow Coma Scale score of 3 have a poor prognosis. Mechanism of injury, head AIS, hypotension on admission, and age play a critical role in outcome. These patients are an important source of organ donation and should be evaluated and resuscitated aggressively.
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