Intracranial pressure monitoring and liver transplantation for fulminant hepatic failure

Steven D. Lidofsky, Nathan M. Bass, Marie C. Prager, Denna E. Washington, Alexandra E. Read, Teresa L. Wright, Nancy L. Ascher, John P. Roberts, Bruce F. Scharschmidt, John R. Lake

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222 Scopus citations


Cerebral edema and intracranial hypertension, commonly present in fulminant hepatic failure, may lead to brainstem herniation and limit the survival of comatose patients awaiting liver transplantation before a donor organ becomes available. Also, they are likely responsible for postoperative neurological morbidity and mortality. Although intracranial pressure monitoring has been proposed to aid clinical decision making in this setting, its use in the prevention of brainstem herniation preoperatively, in the selection of patients for liver transplantation who have the potential for neurological recovery and in the maintenance of cerebral perfusion during liver transplantation has not been examined in detail. To address these issues, we established a protocol for intracranial pressure monitoring in comatose patients with fulminant hepatic failure as part of their preoperative and intraoperative management. Twenty adults and three children underwent intracranial pressure monitoring. Ten patients required preoperative medical therapy with mannitol, barbiturates or both for a rise in intracranial pressure above 25 mm Hg. Four patients had a sustained lowering of intracranial pressure, three of whom survived hospitalization. Six patients had intracranial hypertension refractory to medical management, were removed from a waiting list for a donor organ and died with brainstem herniation. Of the remaining 17 patients, 3 died of other causes while awaiting a donor organ, 2 recovered spontaneously without neurological sequelae and 12 underwent liver transplantation. All but one patient undergoing liver transplantation had transient intraoperative intracranial hypertension develop, requiring medical treatment. The 12 patients who had transplants recovered neurologically and were discharged from the hospital. Survival after liver transplantation was 92% (range of follow‐up = 3 to 37 mo), and the overall survival of the 23 monitored patients was 56.5%. The major complication of intracranial pressure monitoring was intracranial hemorrhage, which occurred in five patients and contributed to two patient deaths. Intracranial pressure monitoring represents a potentially important tool in the preoperative and intraoperative management of comatose patients with fulminant hepatic failure and warrants further study. (HEPATOLOGY 1992;16:1–7.)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1992


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