ICP is the common abbreviation for Intracranial Pressure, a measure of the pressure of the cerebro-spinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The body produces cerebro-spinal fluid continuously and has several mechanisms for keeping it within a narrow range of pressures, generally 7-15 millimeters of mercury (mmHg). However, normal ranges run up to about 20 mmHg. After 25 mmHg, usually medical intervention is required to reduce the pressure.

ICP rises normally with coughing and abrupt changes in blood pressure. In other cases, increased pressure is generally due to some underlying pathology with respect to fluid production or regulation.

One of the most common causes of increased ICP is head trauma. As such, emergency personnel dealing with head injuries must always be on the lookout for symptoms of increased pressure. However, if head trauma is ruled out, increased ICP is not very useful for a differential diagnosis as it can be caused by dozens of other conditions from the prosaic to the rare including liver failure, heart failure, and carcinoma.

Patients with elevated ICP usually suffer from headaches and nausea, but again dozens of other conditions have to be ruled out before this can be traced to ICP.

ICP can be reduced with a shunt or lumbar puncture to provide temporary relief pending the discovery of an underlying pathology. However, if the ICP is ideopathic, corrective surgery may be necessary, although in many cases diuretics may provide relief.

Low ICP is usually a sign of a fluid leak through the blood-brain barrier and constitutes a medical emergency requiring intensive care pending correction of the issue.

Intracranial pressure at Wikipedia

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