BACKGROUND: Intracranial hypertension occurs in response to routine procedures such as endotracheal suctioning in patients with severe head injuries. In some patients, the intracranial pressure does not immediately return to baseline levels. OBJECTIVES: To examine the effect of drug administration on cerebrovascular response to endotracheal suctioning in adults with severe head injuries. METHODS: Seventy-one subjects were divided into 3 groups: those who received no drugs, those treated with opiates only (morphine sulfate and fentanyl citrate), and those treated with a neuromuscular blocking agent (vecuronium bromide) plus opiates. A controlled protocol involving 2 sequences of endotracheal suctioning that included hyperoxygenation, hyperinflation, and suctioning was used for all subjects. Two-way repeated-measures analyses of variance were done with type of drug as the between-subject factor and phase of suctioning as the within-subject factor. Survival analysis was used to compare the return of intracranial pressure to baseline levels among the 3 groups. RESULTS: Changes in intracranial pressure were significantly smaller in subjects who received a neuromuscular blocking agent plus opiates than in subjects who did not receive any drugs or received opiates only. The greatest increase in intracranial pressure from baseline was in the first and second phases of suctioning. The 3 groups showed no significant difference in the return of intracranial pressure to baseline level. CONCLUSIONS: Neuromuscular blockers attenuate the increases in intracranial pressure that occur with endotracheal suctioning. It is not known whether control of procedurally induced elevations in intracranial pressure affects long-term outcomes in adults with severe head injuries.

You do not currently have access to this content.