[Cerebral edema and its treatment]

Medicina (Kaunas). 2007;43(2):170-6.
[Article in Lithuanian]


Cerebral edema is a life-threatening condition that develops as a result of an inflammatory reaction. Most frequently, this is the consequence of cerebral trauma, massive cerebral infarction, hemorrhages, abscess, tumor, allergy, sepsis, hypoxia, and other toxic or metabolic factors. At present, the following types of cerebral edema are differentiated: the vasogenic cerebral edema resulting from an increased permeability of the endothelium of cerebral capillaries to albumin and other plasma proteins; the cytotoxic cerebral edema resulting from the exhaustion of the energy potential of cell membranes without damage to the barrier; the hydrostatic cerebral edema resulting from disturbance of the autoregulation of cerebral blood circulation; the osmotic cerebral edema resulting from dilution of blood; and the interstitial cerebral edema resulting from acute hydrocephaly. Some authors also differentiate ischemic cerebral edema. At present, when various traumas and traumatic cerebral injuries are frequent causes of death in young people, treatment strategy for cerebral edema is of utmost importance. Monitoring of the patient's condition in the intensive care unit is a necessity. It is important to ensure proper positioning of the patient--the head should be tilted at 30 degrees in order to optimize the cerebral perfusion pressure and control of the increase in intracranial pressure. Hyperventilation should be applied. Controlled hypothermia decreases the rate of metabolism in the brain. Slightly positive fluid balance should be maintained using crystalloid or colloid (hypertonic-hyperoncotic) solutions, at the same time maintaining cerebral perfusion pressure exceeding 70 mmHg. The treatment includes administration of antihypertensive medications, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, and barbiturates. Steroids decrease the permeability of capillaries and the hemato-encephalic barrier, promoting the movement of Na(+)/K(+) ions and water through the main endothelial membrane, and therefore they are used in the treatment of vasogenic cerebral edema as well as edema caused by a cerebral tumor. Glutamate and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonists improve cerebral microcirculation and metabolism. Trometamol corrects cerebral acidosis. Extended cerebral edema is treated surgically via a bilateral decompressive craniotomy, sometimes including craniotomy of lateral and posterior fossae. The treatment of cerebral edema is complex, and positive results may be expected only if the diagnosis and the provision of assistance are timely.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Edema / classification
  • Brain Edema / diagnosis
  • Brain Edema / drug therapy
  • Brain Edema / etiology
  • Brain Edema / metabolism
  • Brain Edema / physiopathology
  • Brain Edema / surgery
  • Brain Edema / therapy*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Craniotomy
  • Free Radicals
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia, Induced
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Lipid Peroxidation
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Posture
  • Time Factors


  • Free Radicals