BRAIN DEATH

BRAIN DEATH is a topic covered in the Harrison's Manual of Medicine.

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This results from total cessation of cerebral function while somatic function is maintained by artificial means and the heart continues to pump. It is legally and ethically equivalent to cardiorespiratory death. The pt is unresponsive to all forms of stimulation (widespread cortical destruction), brainstem reflexes are absent (global brainstem damage), and there is complete apnea (destruction of the medulla). Demonstration of apnea requires that the PCO2 be high enough to stimulate respiration, while PO2 and bp are maintained. EEG is isoelectric at high gain. The absence of deep tendon reflexes is not required because the spinal cord may remain functional. Special care must be taken to exclude drug toxicity and hypothermia prior to making a diagnosis of brain death. Diagnosis should be made only if the state persists for some agreed-upon period, usually 6–24 h.

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