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Subdural hematoma
Subdural hematoma


Definition:

Increased intracranial pressure is a rise in normal brain pressure.



Alternative Names:

ICP; Intracranial pressure - increased



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Increased intracranial pressure can be due to a rise in cerebrospinal fluid pressure. It can also be due to increased pressure within the brain matter caused by lesions (such as a tumor ) or swelling within the brain matter itself.

An increase in intracranial pressure is a serious medical problem. The pressure itself can damage the central nervous system by pressing on important brain structures and by restricting blood flow through blood vessels that supply the brain.

Many conditions can increase intracranial pressure. Common causes include:



Symptoms:

Infants:

  • Drowsiness
  • Separated sutures
  • Soft spot on top of the head (bulging fontanelle)
  • Vomiting
Older children and adults:

Signs and tests:

A health care provider will usually make this diagnosis at the patient's bedside in an emergency room or hospital. Primary care doctors may sometimes spot early symptoms of raised intracranial pressure, such as headache, seizures, or neurologic problems.

An MRI or CT scan can often determine the cause and confirm the diagnosis.

Intracranial pressure may be measured during a spinal tap (lumbar puncture). It can also be measured directly by using a device that is drilled through the skull or a tube (catheter) that is inserted inside the brain.



Treatment:

Increased intracranial pressure is an emergency. The person will be in the intensive care unit of the hospital. The health care team will measure and monitor the patient's neurological and vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure.

Treatment may include:

  • Breathing support
  • Draining of cerebrospinal fluid to lower pressure in the brain
  • Medications to decrease swelling

If a tumor, hemorrhage, or other underlying problem has caused the increase in intracranial pressure, the cause should be treated as appropriate.



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

Raised intracranial pressure is a serious and often deadly condition. If the underlying cause of the raised intracranial pressure can be treated, then the outlook is generally better.

If the increased pressure pushes on important brain structures and blood vessels, it can lead to serious, permanent problems or even death.



Complications:
  • Death
  • Permanent neurologic problems
  • Reversible neurologic problems
  • Seizures


Calling your health care provider:

A health care provider will usually make this diagnosis in an emergency room or hospital.



Prevention:

This condition usually cannot be prevented. If you have a persistent headache, blurred vision, changes in your alert level, neurological problems, or seizures, seek medical attention as soon as possible.




Review Date: 11/1/2007
Reviewed By: Luc Jasmin, M.D., Ph.D., Departments of Anatomy and Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
789 Central Avenue, Dover, NH 03820
Phone: (603) 742-5252
Toll free: 1 (877) 201-7100