OBJECTIVE - To determine if beta-(β)-blockers improve outcomes after acute traumatic brain injury (TBI).
BACKGROUND - There have been no new inpatient pharmacologic therapies to improve TBI outcomes in a half-century. Treatment of TBI patients with β-blockers offers a potentially beneficial approach.
METHODS - Using MEDLINE, EMBASE, and CENTRAL databases, eligible articles for our systematic review and meta-analysis (PROSPERO CRD42016048547) included adult (age ≥ 16 years) blunt trauma patients admitted with TBI. The exposure of interest was β-blocker administration initiated during the hospitalization. Outcomes were mortality, functional measures, quality of life, cardiopulmonary morbidity (e.g., hypotension, bradycardia, bronchospasm, and/or congestive heart failure). Data were analyzed using a random-effects model, and represented by pooled odds ratio (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) and statistical heterogeneity (I).
RESULTS - Data were extracted from 9 included studies encompassing 2005 unique TBI patients with β-blocker treatment and 6240 unique controls. Exposure to β-blockers after TBI was associated with a reduction of in-hospital mortality (pooled OR 0.39, 95% CI: 0.27-0.56; I = 65%, P < 0.00001). None of the included studies examined functional outcome or quality of life measures, and cardiopulmonary adverse events were rarely reported. No clear evidence of reporting bias was identified.
CONCLUSIONS - In adults with acute TBI, observational studies reveal a significant mortality advantage with β-blockers; however, quality of evidence is very low. We conditionally recommend the use of in-hospital β-blockers. However, we recommend further high-quality trials to answer questions about the mechanisms of action, effectiveness on subgroups, dose-response, length of therapy, functional outcome, and quality of life after β-blocker use for TBI.