The effectiveness of papilledema as an indicator of raised intracranial pressure in children with craniosynostosis

Neurosurgery. 1996 Feb;38(2):272-8. doi: 10.1097/00006123-199602000-00009.


Craniosynostosis management partially depends on the detection and treatment of elevated intracranial pressure (ICP). Examination for papilledema is considered to be the most reliable screening method for identifying raised ICP, but its effectiveness has not been defined. One hundred and twenty-two children with craniosynostosis who underwent funduscopic examinations and then Camino ICP monitoring were studied. All eye examinations were performed by an ophthalmologist after pharmacological pupillary dilation. Fifteen patients (12%) had papilledema. Subsequent ICP monitoring showed that the median ICP was 12.7 mm Hg, with 41 patients (34%) having elevated ICPs (> 15 mm Hg). Those with papilledema had higher ICPs (17.5 +/- 3.2 versus 12.7 +/- 5.5 mm Hg), were older (5.9 +/- 4.7 versus 1.9 +/- 2.6 years), and were more likely to have craniofacial syndromes (73 versus 41%) than those without papilledema (P < 0.05). Patients with both elevated ICPs and papilledema were older (5.9 +/- 4.7 versus 1.6 +/- 1.4 years) and more likely to have multiple-suture synostosis (92 versus 61%) than those with elevated ICPs and no papilledema (P < 0.05). The presence of papilledema was a specific (98%) indicator of raised ICP, but its sensitivity was age-dependent. It was 100% sensitive in children older than 8 years, but it indicated elevated ICP in only 22% of younger patients. These results suggest that ICP monitoring to document elevated ICP is unnecessary in children older than 8 years who have detailed ophthalmological examinations. In the younger child, the presence of papilledema reliably indicates elevated ICP but its absence does not rule out elevated ICP; formal ICP measurement has a greater role in detecting elevated ICP in these patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniosynostoses / complications*
  • Craniosynostoses / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Pressure*
  • Male
  • Papilledema / etiology*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity