Hemodynamic characterization of intracranial pressure plateau waves in head-injury patients.

Research paper by M M Czosnyka, P P Smielewski, S S Piechnik, E A EA Schmidt, P G PG Al-Rawi, P J PJ Kirkpatrick, J D JD Pickard

Indexed on: 02 Jul '99Published on: 02 Jul '99Published in: Journal of neurosurgery


Plateau waves of intracranial pressure (ICP) are often recorded during intensive care monitoring of severely head injured patients. They are traditionally interpreted as meaningful secondary brain insults because of the dramatic decrease in cerebral perfusion pressure (CPP). The aim of this study was to investigate both the hemodynamic profile and the clinical consequences of plateau waves.One hundred sixty head-injured patients were studied using continuous monitoring of ICP; almost 20% of these patients exhibited plateau waves. In 96 patients arterial pressure, ICP, and transcranial Doppler (TCD) blood flow velocity were studied daily for 20 minutes to 3 hours. Sixteen episodes of plateau waves in eight patients were recorded and analyzed. The dramatic increase in ICP was followed by a profound fall in CPP (by 45%). In contrast, flow velocity fell by only 20%. Autoregulation was documented to be intact both before and after plateau but was disturbed during the wave (p < 0.05). Pressure-volume compensatory reserve was always depleted before the wave. Cerebrovascular resistance decreased during the wave by 60% (p < 0.05) and TCD pulsatility increased (p < 0.05). Plateau waves did not increase the probability of an unfavorable outcome following injury.The authors have confirmed that the plateau waves are a hemodynamic phenomenon associated with cerebrovascular vasodilation. They are observed in patients with preserved cerebral autoregulation but reduced pressure-volume compensatory reserve.