Prolonged hypernatremia controls elevated intracranial pressure in head-injured pediatric patients

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To determine the effects continuous infusions of hypertonic saline (3% NaCl) on intracranial pressure (ICP) control and describe the physiologic effects of hypertonic saline administered to closed head injury children.


Retrospective chart review.


Pediatric intensive care unit of a children's hospital.


Sixty-eight children with closed head injury.


Intravenous infusion of 3% hypertonic saline to increase serum sodium to levels necessary to reduce ICP ≤20 mm Hg.

Measurements and Main Results:

The patients enrolled had similar Injury Severity Scores. Treatment effectively lowered ICP in these patients and ICP was under good control a majority of the time. Only three patients (4%) died of uncontrolled elevation of ICP. No adverse effects of supraphysiologic hyperosmolarity such as renal failure, pulmonary edema, or central pontine demyelination, were noted.


Hypertonic saline administration to children with closed head injury appears to be a promising therapy for control of cerebral edema. Further controlled trials are required to determine the optimal duration of treatment before widespread use is advocated.

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