What is Elevated Intracranial Pressure?
Written by Glenn Rosenberg   
Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Increased intracranial pressure means that the pressure inside the skull is abnormally high, which may cause damage to the brain.

What is going on in the body?

There is normally a small amount of pressure inside the skull. This pressure can become elevated from various conditions. An increased pressure in the skull can put too much pressure on the brain and decrease blood flow to the brain. Increased pressure can also force the brain downward onto the brainstem. This area controls vital functions like breathing, so this is a potentially fatal problem.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Increased intracranial pressure may be caused by:
- brain tumors
- bleeding inside the skull, such as intracerebral hemorrhage
- infection inside the skull, such as encephalitis
- blood clots, known as hematomas
- certain medications
- head injury or trauma

There are other causes, and in some cases the cause is not known.

What are the treatments for the condition?

There are many different treatments, depending on the cause and degree of increased pressure present. Treating the underlying cause, if possible, can often return the pressure to normal. Treatment may include putting the person on a ventilator, or artificial breathing machine. Medications, surgery, or repeated spinal taps to remove fluid are other treatment options.

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Ventilators may cause infection or lung damage. Medications may have side effects, such as allergic reactions or stomach upset. Surgery and spinal taps carry a risk of bleeding, infection, and even death.

What happens after treatment for the condition?

If the underlying cause is corrected and the person feels better, he or she can generally go home with no further treatment. If extensive brain damage has occurred, the person may need intense rehabilitation before going home.

How is the condition monitored?

Symptoms and physical examination findings are followed. Sometimes, special instruments are placed through the skin and into the skull to measure the intracranial pressure.