Hypertonic saline for the management of raised intracranial pressure after severe traumatic brain injury
Saline Solution, Hypertonic
Hyperosmolar agents are commonly used as an initial treatment for the management of raised intracranial pressure (ICP) after severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). They have an excellent adverse-effect profile compared to other therapies, such as hyperventilation and barbiturates, which carry the risk of reducing cerebral perfusion. The hyperosmolar agent mannitol has been used for several decades to reduce raised ICP, and there is accumulating evidence from pilot studies suggesting beneficial effects of hypertonic saline (HTS) for similar purposes. An ideal therapeutic agent for ICP reduction should reduce ICP while maintaining cerebral perfusion (pressure). While mannitol can cause dehydration over time, HTS helps maintain normovolemia and cerebral perfusion, a finding that has led to a large amount of pilot data being published on the benefits of HTS, albeit in small cohorts. Prophylactic therapy is not recommended with mannitol, although it may be beneficial with HTS. To date, no large clinical trial has been performed to directly compare the two agents. The best current evidence suggests that mannitol is effective in reducing ICP in the management of traumatic intracranial hypertension and carries mortality benefit compared to barbiturates. Current evidence regarding the use of HTS in severe TBI is limited to smaller studies, which illustrate a benefit in ICP reduction and perhaps mortality.