Noninvasive Intracranial Pressure Assessment in Acute Liver Failure

Neurocrit Care. 2018 Oct;29(2):280-290. doi: 10.1007/s12028-018-0540-x.


Background: Elevated intracranial pressure (ICP) is an important cause of death following acute liver failure (ALF). While invasive ICP monitoring (IICPM) is most accurate, the presence of coagulopathy increases bleeding risk in ALF. Our objective was to evaluate the accuracy of three noninvasive ultrasound-based measures for the detection of concurrent ICP elevation in ALF-optic nerve sheath diameter (ONSD) using optic nerve ultrasound (ONUS); middle cerebral artery pulsatility index (PI) on transcranial Doppler (TCD); and ICP calculated from TCD flow velocities (ICPtcd) using the estimated cerebral perfusion pressure (CPPe) technique.

Methods: In this retrospective study, consecutive ALF patients admitted over a 6-year period who underwent IICPM as well as measurement of ONSD, TCD-PI or ICPtcd were included. ONSD was measured offline by a blinded investigator from deidentified videos. The ability of highest ONSD, TCD-PI, and ICPtcd to detect concurrent invasive ICP > 20 mmHg was assessed using receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves. The ROC area under the curve (AUC) was calculated with 95% confidence interval (95% CI) and evaluated against the null hypothesis of AUC = 0.5. Noninvasive measures were also evaluated as predictors of in-hospital death.

Results: Forty-one ALF patients were admitted during the study period. In total, 27 (66%) underwent IICPM, of these, 23 underwent ONUS and 21 underwent TCD. Eleven out of 23 (48%) patients died (two from intracranial hypertension). Results of ROC analysis for detection of concurrent ICP > 20 mmHg were as follows: ONSD AUC = 0.59 (95% CI 0.37-0.79, p = 0.54); TCD-PI AUC = 0.55 (95% CI 0.34-0.75, p = 0.70); and ICPtcd AUC = 0.90 (0.72-0.98, p < 0.0001). None of the noninvasive measures were significant predictors of death.

Conclusions: In patients with ALF, neither ONSD nor TCD-PI reliably detected concurrent ICP elevation on invasive monitoring. Estimation of ICP (ICPtcd) using the TCD CPPe technique was associated with concurrent ICP elevation. Additional studies of TCD CPPe in larger numbers of ALF patients may prove worthwhile.

Keywords: Cerebral edema; Fulminant hepatic failure; Intracranial hypertension; Transcranial Doppler ultrasonography; Ultrasonography.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Flow Velocity / physiology*
  • Brain Edema / diagnosis*
  • Brain Edema / etiology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Hypertension / diagnosis*
  • Intracranial Hypertension / etiology
  • Intracranial Pressure / physiology*
  • Liver Failure, Acute / complications*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurophysiological Monitoring / methods*
  • Neurophysiological Monitoring / standards
  • Optic Nerve / diagnostic imaging*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial / methods*
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial / standards
  • Young Adult