Is lactate a good indicator of brain tissue hypoxia in the acute phase of traumatic brain injury? Results of a pilot study in 21 patients

M. Ángeles Merino, J. Sahuquillo, A. Borrull, M. A. Poca, M. Riveiro, L. Expósito

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    12 Citations (Scopus)


    Lactate and the lactate-pyruvate index (LPI) are two hypoxia markers widely used to detect brain tissue hypoxia in patients with acute traumatic brain injury. These two markers have a more complex behavior than expected as they can be abnormally high in circumstances with no detectable brain hypoxia. This condition must be considered in the differential diagnosis because it also reflects an alteration of brain energy metabolism. Objectives. 1. To describe cerebral energy metabolism characteristics observed in the acute phase of traumatic brain injury (TBI) based on two traditional indicators of anaerobic metabolism: lactate and LPI, 2. To determine the concordance between these two biomarkers in order to classify the incidence of anaerobic metabolism and 3. To classify the different types of metabolic abnormalities found in patients with moderate and severe TBI using both lactate and LPI. Materials and methods. Twenty-one patients were randomly selected from a cohort of moderate or severe TBI patients admitted to the neurotraumatology intensive care unit. All of them who underwent both cerebral microdialysis and brain tissue oxygen monitoring (PtiO2). We analyzed the levels of lactate and the LPI for every microvial within the first 96 hours after head trauma. These data were correlated with PtiO2 values. Results. Lactate levels and the LPI were respectively increased during 49,5% and 38,4% of the monitoring time. The incidence and behavior of high levels of both markers were extremely heterogeneous. The concordance between these two biomarkers to determine episodes of dysfucntional metabolism was very weak (Kappa Index=0,29; IC 95%: 0,24-0,34). Based on the levels of lactate and the LPI, we defined four metabolic patterns: I: L>2,5 mmol/L and LPR>25; II: L>2,5 mmol/L and LPR≤ 25; III: L≤ 2,5 mmol/L and LPR≤ 25; IV: L≤ 2,5 mmol/L and LPR>25). In more than 80% of cases in which lactate or LPI were increased, PtiO2 values were within the normal range (PtiO2> 15mmHg). Conclusions. Increased lactate and LPI were frequent findings after acute TBI and in most cases they were not related to episodes of brain tissue hypoxia. Furthermore, the concordance between both biomarkers to classify metabolic dysfunction was weak. LPI and lactate should not be used indistinctly in everyday clinical practice because of the weak correlation between these two markers, the difficulty in their interpretation and the heterogeneous and complex nature of the pathophysiology. Other differential diagnoses apart from tissue hypoxia should always be considered when high lactate and/or LPI are detected in the acute injured brain.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)289-300
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


    • Anaerobic metabolism
    • Brain hypoxia
    • Lactate
    • Lactate-pyruvate index
    • Microdialysis
    • Traumatic brain injury


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