Physicians, health care workers, members of the clergy, and laypeople throughout the world have accepted fully that a person is dead when his or her brain is dead.
Clinical Criteria for Brain Death in Adults and Children
- Absence of motor responses
- Absence of pupillary responses to light and pupils at midposition with respect to dilatation (4–6 mm)
- Absence of corneal reflexes
- Absence of caloric responses
- Absence of gag reflex
- Absence of coughing in response to tracheal suctioning
- Absence of sucking and rooting reflexes
- Absence of respiratory drive at a PaCO2 that is 60 mm Hg or 20 mm Hg above normal base-line values*
- Interval between two evaluations, according to patient’s age
Term to 2 mo old, 48 hr
>2 mo to 1 yr old, 24 hr
>1 yr to <18 yr old, 12 hr
»18 yr old, interval optional
- Confirmatory tests
Term to 2 mo old, 2 confirmatory tests
>2 mo to 1 yr old, 1 confirmatory test
>1 yr to <18 yr old, optional
»18 yr old, optional
*PaCO2 denotes the partial pressure of arterial carbon dioxide.
Confirmatory Testing for a Determination of Brain Death
- The contrast medium should be injected under high pressure in both anterior and posterior circulation.
- No intracerebral filling should be detected at the level of entry of the carotid or vertebral artery to the skull.
- The external carotid circulation should be patent.
- The filling of the superior longitudinal sinus may be delayed.
- A minimum of eight scalp electrodes should be used.
- Interelectrode impedance should be between 100 and 10,000 ohm.
- The integrity of the entire recording system should be tested.
- The distance between electrodes should be at least 10 cm.
- The sensitivity should be increased to at least 2 µV for 30 minutes with inclusion of appropriate calibrations.
- The high-frequency filter setting should not be set below 30 Hz, and the low-frequency setting should not be above 1 Hz.
- Electroencephalography should demonstrate a lack of reactivity to intense somatosensory or audiovisual stimuli.
Transcranial Doppler ultrasonography
- There should be bilateral insonation. The probe should be placed at the temporal bone above the zygomatic arch or the vertebrobasilar arteries through the suboccipital transcranial window.
- The abnormalities should include a lack of diastolic or reverberating flow and documentation of small systolic peaks in early systole. A finding of a complete absence of flow may not be reliable owing to inadequate transtemporal windows for insonation.
Cerebral scintigraphy (technetium Tc 99m hexametazime)
- The isotope should be injected within 30 minutes after its reconstitution.
- A static image of 500,000 counts should be obtained at several time points: immediately, between 30 and 60 minutes later, and at 2 hours.
- A correct intravenous injection may be confirmed with additional images of the liver demonstrating uptake (optional).
- Wijdicks EF. The neurologist and Harvard criteria for brain death. Neurology. 2003 Oct 14;61(7):970-6. [Medline]
- Wijdicks EF. The diagnosis of brain death. N Engl J Med. 2001 Apr 19;344(16):1215-21. [Medline]
Created: Jun 9, 2009