Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a significant source of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Recent shifts in state legislation have increased the use of recreational and medical marijuana. While cannabinoids and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) have known anti-inflammatory effects, the impact of preinjury THC use on clinical outcomes in the setting of severe TBI is unknown. We hypothesized that preinjury THC use in trauma patients suffering TBI would be associated with decreased thromboembolic events and adverse outcomes.
The American College of Surgeons Trauma Quality Improvement Program was used to identify patients aged ≥18 y with TBI and severe injury (Injury Severity Score ≥ 16) in admit year 2017. Patients with smoking or tobacco history or missing or positive toxicology tests for drug and/or alcohol use other than THC were excluded. Propensity score matching was used to compare THC+ patients to similar THC- patients.
A total of 13,266 patients met inclusion criteria, of which 1669 were THC+. A total of 1377 THC+ patients were matched to 1377 THC- patients. No significant differences were found in in-hospital outcomes, including mortality, length of stay, cardiac arrest, pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, or acute respiratory distress syndrome. No patients had ischemic stroke, and THC+ patients had significantly decreased rates of hemorrhagic stroke (0.5% versus 1.5%, P = 0.02, odds ratio 0.41 [95% confidence interval 0.18-0.86]).
Preinjury THC use may be associated with decreased hemorrhagic stroke in severely injured patients with TBI, but there was no difference in thromboembolic outcomes. Further research into pathophysiological mechanisms related to THC are needed.

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