J Pediatr Intensive Care 2017; 06(04): 229-233
DOI: 10.1055/s-0037-1604013
Review Article
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Performing the Brain Death Examination and the Declaration of Pediatric Brain Death

Susan D. Martin1, Melissa B. Porter1
  • 1Division of Pediatric Critical Care, Department of Pediatrics, University of Louisville School of Medicine, Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Further Information

Publication History

02 May 2017

28 May 2017

Publication Date:
27 June 2017 (eFirst)


Declaration of brain death is a clinical diagnosis made by the absence of neurological function in a comatose patient secondary to a known irreversible cause. Brain death determination is not an infrequent process in pediatric intensive care units. It is important that pediatric intensive care providers understand the definition of brain death and intensivists are able to implement brain death testing. The following is a narration detailing the process of brain death determination by physical examination. First, the prerequisites that determine patients' eligibility for brain death testing will be outlined. Next, each part of the physical exam, including the apnea test, will be described in detail. Finally, how the declaration of brain death is made is stated. In addition, special considerations and ancillary testing will be briefly highlighted.