Osmotherapy. Basic concepts and controversies

Crit Care Clin. 1997 Jan;13(1):105-29. doi: 10.1016/s0749-0704(05)70298-0.


Osmotherapy with compounds such as mannitol has become a mainstay of neurologic and neurosurgical intensive care. Elevated intracranial pressure is the most common indication. A substantive debate remains as to the appropriate timing of administration and the optimal fluid management protocol, and experts disagree about the clinically relevant mechanisms of action of osmotic diuretics. This article briefly summarizes the basic literature on the physical actions of mannitol, addresses commonly asked questions, and highlights some of the controversies that arise at the bedside.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood-Brain Barrier / drug effects*
  • Critical Care*
  • Diuretics, Osmotic / adverse effects
  • Diuretics, Osmotic / pharmacokinetics*
  • Diuretics, Osmotic / therapeutic use*
  • Hemodynamics / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Mannitol / adverse effects
  • Mannitol / pharmacokinetics*
  • Mannitol / therapeutic use*


  • Diuretics, Osmotic
  • Mannitol