Objective: To determine the influence of positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) on intracranial pressure and cerebral perfusion pressure.
Design: Neurosurgical intensive care patients requiring intracranial pressure monitoring and mechanical ventilation were studied in a randomized, controlled study.
Setting: Tertiary care, neurosurgical intensive care unit.
Patients: Eighteen patients were enrolled in the study. Patients had posttraumatic head injuries (n = 9), subarachnoid hemorrhage (n = 7), obstructive hydrocephalus (n = 1), and intracerebral hemorrhage of unknown cause (n = 1).
Interventions: Patients had PEEP levels of 5, 10, and 15 cm H2O applied to their lungs.
Measurements and main results: Changes in intracranial pressure, mean arterial pressure, and cerebral perfusion pressure were measured. The results were analyzed separately for patients with normal and increased intracranial pressure (> 15 mm Hg). PEEP at 5 cm H2O had no effect on intracranial pressure in the group with normal intracranial pressure. However, PEEP at 10 and 15 cm H2O produced a significant (p < .05) increase in intracranial pressure (1.9 and 1.5 mm Hg, respectively). In the group with increased intracranial pressure, no significant change in intracranial pressure occurred at any of the PEEP levels used. In both groups, cerebral perfusion pressure was unchanged throughout.
Conclusions: In patients with normal intracranial pressure, PEEP at 5 cm H2O did not significantly alter intracranial pressure. The clinical relevance of the intracranial pressure increase at PEEP levels of 10 and 15 cm H2O is questionable because cerebral perfusion pressure did not change and remained > 60 mm Hg. In patients with increased intracranial pressure, higher levels of PEEP did not significantly change intracranial pressure or cerebral perfusion pressure.