The normal ICP is 5 - 15 mmHg. There is no defined set point at which treatment for intracranial hypertension should be initiated, but levels above 20mmHg are usually treated. However it is probably more important to maintain an adequate cerebral perfusion pressure. In a hypotensive patient, even a small increase in ICP could be harmful. Alternatively, an elevated mean arterial pressure may protect against a raised ICP.
ICP measurement is necessary to accurately determine CPP. However ICP measurement per se has not been conclusively shown to alter outcome in head injury patients. This is due to a combination of factors, primarily that ICP monitoring is now so accepted for severe head injury, and forms the basis for modern brain injury management, so that it would be difficult to conduct a study with a control arm. Secondly, as mentioned previously, previous studies have concentrated on controlling ICP, whereas modern brain injury protocols focus on maintenance of CPP. Thirdly, failure of a therapy should not necessarily implicate the measurement tool that therapy is directed against.
There is a substantial body of evidence to support the use of ICP monitoring. Several studies have reported substantial lowering in mortality after ICP monitoring and control was introduced. Similarly studies have shown a lower mortality in those patients whose ICP could be controlled compared to those in which it could not. ICP monitoring is now a central part of critical care management for the severely brain injured patient.
Indications for ICP monitoring.
All patients with severe head injury (GCS<9) and those patients with moderate head injury (GCS 9-12) at increased risk (see below) or who cannot be followed with serial neurological examination (eg. anaesthetised for other procedure).
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