Objective: To establish current practice for the monitoring and management of acute intracranial hypertension in children in United Kingdom intensive care units (ICUs).
Design: Postal questionnaire, targetted by prior telephone survey, to all ICUs admitting five or more children per annum with acute neurological illness.
Results: Of the units contacted 70 % responded, approximately one-half of which reported the use of intracranial pressure (ICP) monitoring. Only data from these units are presented. Nearly all of these units consider monitoring following serious head injury, but its use in non-traumatic brain injury is less widespread. The decision to institute ICP monitoring is based mainly upon neuroimaging appearances and Glasgow Coma Scale score. ICP and cerebral perfusion pressure targets differ markedly between centres, with only 46 % and 65 % of units, respectively, setting age-dependent parameters. Mannitol and varying degrees of hyperventilation are employed by all units to lower ICP. The majority also use barbiturates, diuretics, and fluid restriction. Controlled hypothermia is used in 52 % of units. Paediatric units are more likely to employ age-dependent cerebral perfusion pressure targets. Specific therapies employed to lower ICP are similar to those used in adult centres.
Conclusion: Faced with a lack of both evidence and consensus, the management of acute intracranial hypertension in childhood varies widely. National or international guidelines for the management of children with raised intracranial pressure are needed. These should incorporate the physiological differences between children of different ages.