Diagnosing Death using Neurological Criteria

29 July 2021

In 2021 in the UK, a diagnosis of death using neurological criteria, had to be reversed. The case concerned bilateral therapeutic decompressive craniectomy as a treatment for severe traumatic brain injury. An expert group reviewed the case and made recommendations, which have been accepted by the FICM and ICS.

The main recommendation was that ‘Therapeutic decompressive craniectomy’ should be added as a red flag to the nationally endorsed testing forms.

During the review the expert group used the opportunity to improve the nationally endorsed testing forms by:

•            Giving more prominence to the red flags to ensure they are seen and accounted for.

•            Specifically, advising that clinicians should consider the need to delay testing and/or perform ancillary investigations if a red flag is identified.

•            Enhancing clarity and emphasis. This included removing symbols for greater or lesser than in the testing form questions.

The diagnosis of death using neurological criteria is an important diagnosis made almost exclusively in the UK by intensive care doctors. We would ask that you update older versions of the nationally endorsed forms with updated versions:

Form for the Diagnosis of Death using Neurological Criteria - Long Version (2021)

Form for the Diagnosis of Death using Neurological Criteria - Short Version (2021)