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A raised serum lactate level is an independent predictor of in-hospital mortality in patients with isolated cerebral gunshot wounds

V.Y. Kong
R.D. Weale
G.L. Laing
J.L. Bruce
G.V. Oosthuizen
B Sartorius
P Brysiewicz
D.L. Clarke


Background. Cerebral gunshot wounds (CGSWs) represent a highly lethal form of traumatic brain injury, and triaging these patients is difficult. The prognostic significance of the serum lactate level in the setting of CGSWs is largely unknown.

Objectives. To examine the relationship between elevated serum lactate levels and mortality in patients with isolated CGSWs.

Methods. A retrospective review of the regional trauma registry was undertaken at the Pietermaritzburg Metropolitan Trauma Service, South Africa, over a 5-year period from 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2014. All patients with an isolated CGSW were included.

Results. A total of 102 patients with isolated CGSWs were identified. Of these, 92.2% (94/102) were male. The mean age (standard deviation) was 29 (8) years, and the in-hospital mortality rate was 21.6% (22/102). The mean serum lactate level was significantly higher among non-survivors than among survivors (6.1 mmol/L v. 1.3 mmol/L; p<0.001). Lactate levels among non-survivors were <2 mmol/L in 4.5%, 2 - 3.99 mmol/L in 9.1%, 4 - 5.99 mmol/L in 36.4% and ≥6 mmol/L in 50.0%. The odds ratio for mortality with a lactate level of 4 - 5.99 mmol/L was 67 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.7 - 2 674.2), while for a lactate level of ≥6 mmol/L it was 1 787 (95% CI 9.0 - 354 116.1). The serum lactate level accurately predicted mortality even after adjustment for other variables. Based on a receiver operating curve analysis, an optimal cut-off of 3.3 mmol/L for serum lactate as a predictor for mortality was identified (area under the curve = 0.957).

Conclusions. CGSWs are associated with significant mortality, and a raised serum lactate level appears to be an independent predictor of in-hospital mortality. It is a potentially useful adjunct in the resuscitation room for identifying patients with a very poor prognosis.