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Fixed and dilated: the history of a classic pupil abnormality

Heerlen – mechentel news – The aim of this study of Peter J. Koehler and Eelco F. Wijdicks at the department of Neurology at the Atrium Medical Center Heerlen, Netherlands, was to investigate the development of ideas about the nature and mechanism of the fixed dilated pupil, paying particular attention to experimental conditions and clinical observations in the 19th century. Starting from Kocher’s standard review in 1901, the authors studied German, English, and French texts for historical information. Medical and neurological textbooks from the 19th and 20th centuries were reviewed to investigate when and how this information percolated through neurological and neurosurgical practices. Cooper experimented with intracranial pressure (ICP) in a dog in the 1830s, but did not mention the pupils. He described dilated pupils in clinical cases without referring to the effect of light. Bright demonstrated to have some knowledge of the pupil sign (clinical observations). Realizing the unreliability of the pupil sign, Hutchinson in 1867-1868 tried to reason in which cases trepanation would be advisable. Von Leyden’s 1866 animal experiments, in which he increased CSF volume by injecting protein solutions intracranially, was the first observation in which the association between fixed dilated pupils and increased ICP was established. Along with bradycardia and motor and respiratory effects, he noticed wide pupils were usually present in a comatose state. Asymmetrical dilation could not always be attributed to increased ICP, but to an oculomotor nerve lesion. Pagenstecher in 1871 extended knowledge by meticulously studying consecutive pupil phenomena with increasing pressure. In 1880, von Bergmann emphasized the significance of the ipsilateral dilation in experiments as well as in clinical cases. He distinguished the extent of pressure increase and its duration. Probably confusing irritation (epileptic head turning to the other side with pupil dilation) and lesion effects, he suggested a cortical area responsible for oculomotor phenomena, indicating what is now known as the frontal eye field. Naunyn and Schreiber (1881) understood the relationship between increased ICP with pupil dilation and decreased pulse frequency and blood pressure, warning not to decrease the latter. Concentrating on experimental traumatic effects, Duret (1878) investigated compression and commotion, in which he distinguished two phases, notably pupil constriction by bulbar lesions, due to CSF shock, followed by dilation from congestion and inflammation, due to blood around the oculomotor nerve. The key observation of a fixed dilated pupil as a sign of acute mass effect came gradually and after some localization stumbles. Following the period of extensive experimental research in ICP, the results of which were translated to clinical observations, the prognostic significance was gradually acknowledged by authors of neurological textbooks, reason the authors in the February 2015 issue of the journal of Neurosurgery. It is well known that Cushing did similar experiments in Berne (1900-1901), and later suggested he would not have done so if he had studied the literature.(bst)

Autoren: Koehler PJ, Wijdicks EF. Korrespondenz: Department of Neurology, Atrium Medical Centre, Heerlen, The Netherlands. E-Mail: pkoehler@neurohistory. Studie: Fixed and dilated: the history of a classic pupil abnormality. Quelle: J Neurosurg. 2015 Feb;122(2):453-63. doi: 10.3171/2014.10.JNS14148. Web: