Anterior fontanel pressure (AFP), a noninvasive indicator of intracranial pressure (ICP), was monitored during tracheal intubation in two groups of preterm neonates without neurologic disease. Anterior fontanel pressure was monitored and recorded continuously with a Ladd AFP monitor. Systolic and mean blood pressures were recorded at 1-min intervals. In group 1 (n = 6) patients, 0.02 mg/kg intravenous atropine was administered and awake intubation was performed. Group 2 (n = 6) patients received 0.02 mg/kg intravenous atropine and 0.1 mg/kg pancuronium and one of four anesthetics--0.75% isoflurane, 0.5% halothane, 20 micrograms/kg fentanyl, or 2 mg/kg ketamine--with intubation after 10 min of mask ventilation. In group 1, AFP increased from 7.7 cm H2O to 23.8 cm H2O (P less than 0.05); the mean increase in AFP was 197%. Anterior fontanel pressure did not change significantly in group 2. Significant increases in AFP may increase the risk of intraventricular hemorrhage in preterm neonates. The present data indicate that indirectly measured ICP increases significantly during awake tracheal intubation in preterm neonates and that this increase can be prevented by prior administration of pancuronium and a general anesthetic.