What was this review about?
Acute traumatic brain injury is a major cause of death and disability.
Not all damage to the brain occurs at the moment of injury; reduction of blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain can occur afterwards and cause further brain damage, which is an important cause of avoidable death and disability.
In the early stages after injury it is therefore important that efforts are made to minimise secondary brain damage and to provide the best chances of recovery from established brain damage.
The use of calcium channel blockers has been proposed for the prevention or treatment of cerebral vasospasm (that is, sudden narrowing of blood vessels in the brain), which can occur after brain injury and cause secondary brain damage due to a reduction in blood flow.
It is important to determine whether or not calcium channel blockers might be effective in reducing mortality and unfavourable outcomes in head-injured patients.
This review looked at all high quality trials comparing the use of calcium channel blockers with a control, in head-injured patients of any age.
The review also looked at trials involving patients suffering from subarachnoid haemorrhage (that is, bleeding into the space between the brain and the skull) caused by an injury, as a subgroup.
What did the review find?
The review identified six eligible trials involving 1862 patients. The results indicated that there was insufficient evidence to support the use of calcium channel blockers.
There was some evidence that a calcium channel blocker called nimodipine may be beneficial for some patients with subarachnoid haemorrhage. However, there was also an indication of certain adverse reactions amongst patients treated with nimodipine which may mean that the drug is harmful for some individuals.
The authors recommended that the promising results in patients with subarachnoid haemorrhage need to be replicated in a larger, well-designed trial before any firm conclusions about the effectiveness of the drug could be drawn.