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Elevated intracranial pressure (ICP) in children

Robert C Tasker, MBBS, MD
Section Editors
Susan B Torrey, MD
Marc C Patterson, MD, FRACP
Adrienne G Randolph, MD, MSc
Deputy Editor
James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH


Elevated intracranial pressure (ICP) is a potentially devastating complication of neurologic injury. In children, increased ICP is most often a complication of traumatic brain injury; it may also occur in children who have hydrocephalus, brain tumors, or intracranial infections (table 1). Successful management of children with elevated ICP requires prompt recognition and therapy directed at both reducing ICP and reversing its underlying cause. Early recognition of elevated ICP can prevent neurologic sequelae and/or death.

The evaluation and management of children with elevated ICP will be reviewed here. The initial management of children with severe traumatic brain injury and elevated ICP in adults are discussed separately. (See "Initial approach to severe traumatic brain injury in children" and "Evaluation and management of elevated intracranial pressure in adults".)


The intracranial compartment is protected by the skull, a rigid structure with a fixed internal volume; the intracranial contents include (by volume) [1]:

Brain parenchyma – 80 percent

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) – 10 percent


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Jan 7, 2016.
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