Variability in reported physician practices for brain death determination

Sherri A. Braksick, Christopher P. Robinson, Gary S. Gronseth, Sara Hocker, Eelco F.M. Wijdicks, Alejandro A. Rabinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


ObjectivesThe degree of training and variability in the clinical brain death examination performed by physicians is not known.MethodsSurveys were distributed to physicians (including physicians-in-training) practicing at 3 separate academic medical centers. Data, including level of practice, training received in completion of a brain death examination, examination components performed, and use of confirmatory tests were collected. Data were evaluated for accuracy in the brain death examination, self-perceived competence in the examination, and indications for confirmatory tests.ResultsOf 225 total respondents, 68 reported completing brain death examinations in practice. Most physicians who complete a brain death examination reported they had received training in how to complete the examination (76.1%). Seventeen respondents (25%) reported doing a brain death examination that is consistent with the current practice guideline. As a part of their brain death assessment, 10.3% of physicians did not report completing an apnea test. Of clinicians who obtain confirmatory tests on an as-needed basis, 28.3% do so if a patient breathes during an apnea test, a clinical finding that is not consistent with brain death.ConclusionsThere is substantial variability in how physicians approach the adult brain death examination, but our survey also identified lack of training in nearly 1 in 4 academic physicians. A formal training course in the principles and proper technique of the brain death examination by physicians with expert knowledge of this clinical assessment is recommended.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E888-E894
Issue number9
StatePublished - Feb 26 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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