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Alternative Names Return to topICP; Intracranial pressure - increased
Definition Return to top
Increased intracranial pressure is a rise in normal brain pressure.
Causes Return to top
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 Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
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 Return to top
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:
If a tumor, hemorrhage, or other underlying problem has caused the increase in intracranial pressure, the cause should be treated as appropriate.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
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.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
A health care provider will usually make this diagnosis in an emergency room or hospital.
Prevention Return to top
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.Update Date: 11/1/2007 Updated 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.