Emergent, controlled lumbar drainage for intracranial pressure monitoring during orthotopic liver transplantation

C. Joseph Bacani, W. D. Freeman, Rachel A. Di Trapani, Juan C. Canabal, Lisa Arasi, Timothy Shine, Darrin L. Willingham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Measurement of intracranial pressure (ICP) is recommended in comatose acute liver failure (ALF) patients due to risk of rapid global cerebral edema. External ventricular drains (EVD) can be placed to drain cerebrospinal fluid and monitor ICP simultaneously although this remains controversial in the neurosurgical community given the risk of hemorrhagic complications. We describe a patient with ALF and global cerebral edema whose EVD failed immediately before orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) in which a lumbar drain (LD) was used temporarily to monitor ICP. Methods: We describe a 36 year old patient with ALF and brain edema from acetaminophen overdose who had an EVD placed for ICP monitoring and management. The EVD failed repeatedly (i.e., lost CSF drainage and ICP waveform) despite several saline irrigations and three doses intraventricular tissue plasminogen activator (1 mg) in the hours that immediately preceded her planned emergency OLT. An LD was placed emergently and controlled cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) drainage and ICP measurement was performed by setting the LD at 20 mmHg and leveling at the ear level (foramen of Monro). The LD was removed once the EVD flow was re-established post-OLT. Results: The EVD and LD ICP measurements were reported to be the same just prior to removing the LD. Conclusions: Controlled CSF drainage using a lumbar drain can be used to monitor ICP when leveled at the foramen of Monro if EVD failure occurs perioperatively. The LD can temporarily guide ICP management until the EVD flow can be re-established after OLT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-452
Number of pages6
JournalNeurocritical care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2011


  • Acute liver failure (ALF)
  • External ventricular drain (EVD)
  • Lumbar drain (LD)
  • Orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT)
  • Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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