The aim of the present study was to investigate the acute effects of 7.2% hypertonic saline (HS) on intracranial pressure (ICP), cerebral and systemic hemodynamics, serum sodium, and osmolality in 14 patients with moderate and severe traumatic brain injury (Glasgow Coma Scale < or =13) and raised ICP (>15 mm Hg) within the first 72 h postinjury. After CO2 reactivity and autoregulation were tested, each patient received a 15-min infusion of 7.2% HS (1,232 mEq/L, volume 1.5 mL/kg). ICP, serial hemodynamics, cerebral blood flow (CBF) estimated from cerebral arteriovenous oxygen content difference (AVDO2), and laboratory variables, including serum osmolality, electrolytes, urea, and creatinine were collected before infusion (T0) and at 5, 30, 60, and 120 min after (T5, T30, T60, T120). Urine output was measured 2 h before infusion and at T120. While CO2 reactivity was preserved in all patients, autoregulation was preserved in only four. ICP decreased to about 30% of base line (p = 0.0001) during the whole study period. During the first hour after infusion, cerebral perfusion pressure (p< or =0.04) and cardiac index (CI; p< or =0.01) increased, while systemic vascular resistance index fell (p< or =0.05). Heart rate increased (p< or =0.04) during the first 30 min. Pulmonary artery occlusion pressure (PAOP) increased (p = 0.004) at T5. There were no significant changes in mean arterial blood pressure (MABP), urine output, and estimated CBF. A significant positive correlation (r = 0.75; p = 0.02) between ICP and serum osmolality was found at T5. The administration of 7.2% HS in patients with traumatic brain injury significantly reduces ICP without significant changes in relative global CBF (expressed as 1/AVDO2), increases CI and transiently increases PAOP, without changing MABP and urine output. The correlation between changes in osmolality and ICP supports the hypothesis that HSS may in part decrease ICP by means of an osmotic mechanism.