Treating Intracranial Pressure
During the immediate and intermediate phases of TBI treatment, swelling in the brain is closely monitored and treated when necessary. Brain swelling is a serious problem. It causes increased pressure on the brain tissue which can be easily damaged. Because the skull is hard, increased intracranial pressure can compress or squeeze the soft brain tissue against it, keeping blood from flowing to the brain tissue and causing damage to brain cells.
To help with this condition, an intracranial pressure, or ICP monitor can be inserted through the skull to give the medical team a constant measurement of the pressure. If the ICP rises too high, medications are given to reduce the pressure, slow brain function down, and increase blood flow to the injured part of the brain. The patient also can be placed on a breathing machine, known as a ventilator.
If the ICP monitor shows that intracranial pressure is building to a dangerous level, steps are taken to reduce the pressure. This can be done by draining fluid from the brain using a catheter that’s already in place, or with other surgical procedures.
When brain swelling is severe, increased pressure can be reduced by surgically removing part of the skull, which will later be replaced. This allows swollen tissues to expand, reducing the risk for additional damage to the brain.