Acute Intracranial Hypertension During Pregnancy: Special Considerations and Management Adjustments

Daniel Agustin Godoy, Chiara Robba, Wellingson Silva Paiva, Alejandro A. Rabinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Pregnancy is associated with a number of pathophysiological changes (including modification of vascular resistance, increased vascular permeability, and coagulative disorders) that can lead to specific (eclampsia, preeclampsia) or not specific (intracranial hemorrhage) neurological complications. In addition to these disorders, pregnancy can affect numerous preexisting neurologic conditions, including epilepsy, brain tumors, and intracerebral bleeding from cerebral aneurysm or arteriovenous malformations. Intracranial complications related to pregnancy can expose patients to a high risk of intracranial hypertension (IHT). Unfortunately, at present, the therapeutic measures that are generally adopted for the control of elevated intracranial pressure (ICP) in the general population have not been examined in pregnant patients, and their efficacy and safety for the mother and the fetus is still unknown. In addition, no specific guidelines for the application of the staircase approach, including escalating treatments with increasing intensity of level, for the management of IHT exist for this population. Although some of basic measures can be considered safe even in pregnant patients (management of stable hemodynamic and respiratory function, optimization of systemic physiology), some other interventions, such as hyperventilation, osmotic therapy, hypothermia, barbiturates, and decompressive craniectomy, can lead to specific concerns for the safety of both mother and fetus. The aim of this review is to summarize the neurological pathophysiological changes occurring during pregnancy and explore the effects of the possible therapeutic interventions applied to the general population for the management of IHT during pregnancy, taking into consideration ethical and clinical concerns as well as the decision for the timing of treatment and delivery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)302-316
Number of pages15
JournalNeurocritical care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Cerebral autoregulation
  • Cerebral perfusion pressure
  • Intracranial hypertension
  • Intracranial pressure
  • Intracranial pressure monitoring
  • Pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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