Cerebral edema and intracranial pressure monitoring

Authors

  • Juan Cordoba,

    1. Lakeside VA Medical Center and Northwester University, Chicago, IL
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  • Andres T. Blei MD

    Corresponding author
    1. Lakeside VA Medical Center and Northwester University, Chicago, IL
    • Andres T. Blei, MD, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Passavant Pavilion, Suite-726, Superior St and Fairbanks Ct, Chicago, IL 60611
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Abstract

With the wide acceptance of liver transplantation as a therapeutic alternative in fulminant hepatic failure (FHF), the successful management of patients with this syndrome has acquired a new urgency. Topping the list of medical problems is the development of brain swelling. Two decades after the recognition of its importance,1 brain edema and intracranial hypertension still constitute a major cause of death in these patients. In a more recent classification of FHF, brain edema was especially prominent in those subjects with “hyperacute failure,”2 in whom a period of 7 days or less elapsed between the development of jaundice and encephalopathy. The goal of this review is to discuss two aspects of this clinical problem. On one hand, elucidation of its pathogenesis should lead to a more rational therapeutic approach; such an information would also be valuable to understand the relationship between hepatic encephalopathy and brain edema, a source of controversy. Studies of pathogenic mechanisms are difficult to perform in humans and animal models of FHF have proven valuable, as brain swelling can be detected with some regularity.3 On the other hand, an increasing array of techniques is now available in the intensive care setting to monitor patients with FHF. Of these, intracranial pressure monitoring has received the most critical attention. However, concerns with the risks of craniotomy and the need to acquire more dynamic information has led several groups to explore non-invasive methods that evaluate the consequences of intracranial hypertension. Their role, though potentially exciting, is still uncertain. Copyright © 1995 by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

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