Intracranial pressure: why we monitor it, how to monitor it, what to do with the number and what's the future?

Andrea Lavinio, David K Menon
Current Opinion in Anaesthesiology 2011, 24 (2): 117-23

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: The review touches upon the current physiopathological concepts relating to the field of intracranial pressure (ICP) monitoring and offers an up-to-date overview of the ICP monitoring technologies and of the signal-analysis techniques relevant to clinical practice.

RECENT FINDINGS: Improved ICP probes, antibiotic-impregnated ventricular catheters and multimodality, computerized systems allow ICP monitoring and individualized optimization of brain physiology. Noninvasive technologies for ICP and cerebral perfusion pressure assessment are being tested in the clinical arena. Computerized morphological analysis of the ICP pulse-waveform can provide an indicator of global cerebral perfusion.

SUMMARY: Current recommendations for the management of traumatic brain injury indicate ICP monitoring in patients who remain comatose after resuscitation if the admission computed tomography scan reveals intracranial abnormalities such as haematomas, contusions and cerebral oedema. The most reliable methods of ICP monitoring are ventricular catheters and intraparenchymal systems. A growing number of these devices are being safely placed by neurointensivists. The consensus is to treat ICP exceeding the 20 mmHg threshold, and to target cerebral perfusion pressure between 50 and 70 mmHg. Recent evidence suggests that such thresholds should be optimized based on multimodality monitoring and individual brain physiology. Noninvasive ICP estimation using transcranial Doppler can have a role as a screening tool in patients with low to intermediate risk of developing intracranial hypertension. However, the technology remains insufficiently accurate and too cumbersome for continuous ICP monitoring.

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