Background: The efficacy of administering single bolus doses of 14.6 or 23.4 % hypertonic saline (HTS) to treat refractory intracranial hypertension has been demonstrated in the literature and has emerged as an important therapeutic option in treating these patients. However, many institutions lack experience with this therapy and there are few published studies evaluating the safety of repeated bolus dosing of HTS.
Methods: A retrospective review of patients admitted between January 2008 and July 2012 was conducted to evaluate the use of repeated dosing of HTS in patients with refractory intracranial hypertension. The primary objective was to evaluate the safety of repeated dosing of HTS assessed by documented adverse effects such as central pontine myelinolysis (CPM) and severe fluctuations in serum sodium concentrations. Secondary objectives were to evaluate the efficacy of repeated dosing HTS in reducing intracranial pressure (ICP) and to compare the dose-response relationship of 14.6 and 23.4 % doses.
Results: Fifty-five patients were included for evaluation, each receiving an average of 8.9 (range 2-61) doses of HTS. A statistically significant increase in mean serum sodium concentration occurred with the administration of HTS (p < 0.0001). No cases of CPM were identified. The use of HTS was found to be effective based on decreases in ICP after administration (p < 0.0001, mean ICP reduction: 10.1 mmHg, range 3-23.6 mmHg). The efficacy of 23.4 % saline in decreasing ICP was not found to be significantly different than 14.6 % saline (p = 0.23).
Conclusions: Repeat bolus dosing of 14.6 or 23.4 % HTS appears to be relatively safe and effective for treating refractory intracranial hypertension assuming there is frequent electrolyte monitoring and concomitant fluid management.