What is icp?


Intracranial pressure (ICP) is defined as “the pressure within the craniospinal compartment, a closed system that comprises a fixed volume of neural tissue, blood, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)” (source). Practically, ICP is the pressure within your cranium. 


The basic anatomy of the brain is best described with the Monro-Kellie doctrine. The Monro-Kellie doctrine essentially notes that the brain is surrounded by a solid cranium which means that the cranial compartment is incompressible and thereby a fixed volume of three components: Brain tissue, blood and cerebrospinal fluid (which protects the central nervous system and the brain from damage). 

Due to the incompressible structure of the cranium, these three components must maintain an equilibrium. Therefore, if one increases another decreases and vice versa. However, at a certain point the components are not able to adjust any further and the increasing component will push the ICP to rise significantly. 

According to the Monro-Kellie doctrine, the pressure within the human brain should be between 5-15 mmHg, and if the ICP exceeds the level of 20 mmHg, the brain is in a dangerous state, that potentially leads to irreversible brain damage and brain death.

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Elevations in ICP is a common and potentially life-threatening condition that arises from a variety of pathological conditions including traumatic brain injury, strokes, brain tumors, hydrocephalus conditions and more. Elevated ICP can be difficult to detect as the symptoms resembles those of other less serious diseases. 

As elevated ICP can cause significant death of brain cells or death, monitoring ICP is crucial in the timely, accurate and prompt treatment of patients with potentially increasing ICP. With brain trauma, a few seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

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