Trending Clinical Topics for October 2018

Ryan Syrek


November 02, 2018

Each week, we identify one top search term, speculate as to what caused its popularity, and provide an infographic on a related condition. If you have thoughts about what's trending and why, feel free to share them with us on Twitter or Facebook!

Trending Clinical Topic of the Week (October 27 to November 2): Brain Death

What constitutes brain death? A discussion about this often controversial question helped drive interest in this week's top trending clinical topic. In May, a 13-year-old boy in Alabama named Trenton McKinley awoke just 1 day before his organs were scheduled to be harvested, after being declared brain dead due to injuries sustained in a motor vehicle collision. In June, Jahi McMath succumbed to complications related to liver failure nearly 5 years after being declared brain dead. These high-profile cases have resulted in numerous examinations of the procedures and practices surrounding declaration of brain death.

A perspective recently published on Medscape takes a look at the questions prompted by shocking cases like McKinley's and McMath's. The author asks whether situations like theirs were more about errors in clinical judgment and improperly following procedures, or whether tougher standards are needed regarding brain death. The subject has been deeply controversial since the idea of declaring a patient dead on the basis of irreversible loss of all clinical brain function was first proposed five decades ago. In 2010, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) updated its guidelines for determining brain death in adults and found no reports of patients recovering brain function after the appropriate use of criteria for declaring brain death. Still, as evidenced by the fact that it was this week's top trending clinical topic, questions surrounding the issue persist.

For more on the checklist for determining brain death, read here.


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