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Critical Care Research and Practice
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 207247, 8 pages
Review Article

Pulmonary Complications in Patients with Severe Brain Injury

1Mischer Neuroscience Institute, Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, 6431 Fannin Street Medical School Building 7152, Houston, TX 77030, USA
2The Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery, 6431 Fannin Street, Room 7.152, Houston, TX 77030, USA
3Divisions of Critical Care and Neurotrauma, Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA

Received 3 February 2012; Revised 15 September 2012; Accepted 23 September 2012

Academic Editor: Ali A. El Solh

Copyright © 2012 Kiwon Lee and Fred Rincon. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Pulmonary complications are prevalent in the critically ill neurological population. Respiratory failure, pneumonia, acute lung injury and the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ALI/ARDS), pulmonary edema, pulmonary contusions and pneumo/hemothorax, and pulmonary embolism are frequently encountered in the setting of severe brain injury. Direct brain injury, depressed level of consciousness and inability to protect the airway, disruption of natural defense barriers, decreased mobility, and secondary neurological insults inherent to severe brain injury are the main cause of pulmonary complications in critically ill neurological patients. Prevention strategies and current and future therapies need to be implemented to avoid and treat the development of these life-threatening medical complications.