Background: Development of elevated intracranial pressure (ICP) in hepatic failure indicates poor prognosis. Its detection by invasive methods poses methodological problems. We applied ultrasound studies of the optic nerves to noninvasively estimated ICP status.
Methods: A total of 22 pediatric patients with hepatic failure were examined by serial B scan ultrasound and followed up clinically. Outcome was scored as survival or death due to multiorgan failure (MOF) or raised ICP. In 18 patients, transplantations were performed.
Results: Four patients died before transplantation was possible (raised ICP: n=3, MOF: n=1). After OLT there were 10 survivors and 8 patients died (MOF: n=3, raised ICP: n=5). In 10 patients we found optic nerve sheath diameter (ONSD) above normal limits. Eight patients died, mostly because of raised ICP (n=7). Only 2 of the 10 survivors experienced a transient ONSD increase, steadily normalized after transplantation. Preoperatively, normal ONSD was detected in four of seven patients. The outcome of these four cases was clearly superior (three survivors and one MOF) compared with abnormal pre-OLT ultrasound findings (raised ICP: n=3).
Conclusion: Patients with poor prognosis related to raised ICP in pediatric liver failure can be identified by ultrasound measurement of ONSD without the disadvantages of invasive procedures. Although the exact intracranial pressure level cannot be deduced from single examinations, ONSD trends can reflect the evolution of ICP in hepatic encephalopathy.