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VOLUME 13 , ISSUE 1 ( March, 2009 ) > List of Articles


The diagnosis of brain death

Mridula Pawar, Ajay Kumar Goila

Keywords : Apnoea test, brain stem function, brain stem reflexes, confounding and compatible conditions

Citation Information : Pawar M, Goila AK. The diagnosis of brain death. Indian J Crit Care Med 2009; 13 (1):7-11.

DOI: 10.4103/0972-5229.53108

License: CC BY-ND 3.0

Published Online: 01-04-2012

Copyright Statement:  Copyright © 2009; The Author(s).


Physicians, health care workers, members of the clergy, and laypeople throughout the world have accepted fully that a person is dead when his or her brain is dead. Although the widespread use of mechanical ventilators and other advanced critical care services have transformed the course of terminal neurologic disorders. Vital functions can now be maintained artificially for a long period of time after the brain has ceased to function. There is a need to diagnose brain death with utmost accuracy and urgency because of an increased awareness amongst the masses for an early diagnosis of brain death and the requirements of organ retrieval for transplantation. Physicians need not be, or consult with, a neurologist or neurosurgeon in order to determine brain death. The purpose of this review article is to provide health care providers in India with requirements for determining brain death, increase knowledge amongst health care practitioners about the clinical evaluation of brain death, and reduce the potential for variations in brain death determination policies and practices amongst facilities and practitioners. Process for brain death certification has been discussed under the following: 1. Identification of history or physical examination findings that provide a clear etiology of brain dysfunction. 2. Exclusion of any condition that might confound the subsequent examination of cortical or brain stem function. 3. Performance of a complete neurological examination including the standard apnea test and 10 minute apnea test. 4. Assessment of brainstem reflexes. 5. Clinical observations compatible with the diagnosis of brain death. 6. Responsibilities of physicians. 7. Notify next of kin. 8. Interval observation period. 9. Repeat clinical assessment of brain stem reflexes. 10. Confirmatory testing as indicated. 11. Certification and brain death documentation.

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