Brain Death

Mack Drake, Andrew Bernard, Eugene Hessel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Death determined by neurologic criteria, commonly referred to as “brain death,” occurs when function of the entire brain ceases, including the brain stem. Diagnostic criteria for brain death are explicit but controversy exists regarding nuances of the evaluation and potential confounders of the examination. Hospitals and ICU teams should carefully consider which clinicians will perform brain death testing and should use standard processes, including checklists to prevent diagnostic errors. Proper diagnosis is essential because misdiagnosis can be catastrophic. Timely, accurate brain death determination and aggressive physiologic support are cornerstones of both good end-of-life care and successful organ donation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1255-1273
Number of pages19
JournalSurgical Clinics of North America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Inc.


  • Ancillary testing
  • Brain death
  • Brain injury
  • Clinical examination
  • Confirmatory testing
  • Critical care
  • Organ donor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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