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Neurosurgery. 2004 Mar;54(3):538-51; discussion 551-2.

Idiopathic intracranial hypertension.

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  • 1Department of Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143-0112, USA.



The history, diagnosis, and therapy of idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) (pseudotumor cerebri) are reviewed. Theories of pathogenesis are considered, the clinical presentation is described, and potential diagnostic and therapeutic challenges are explored.


An extensive literature review of IIH and related conditions (secondary pseudotumor syndromes) was performed. The history of and rationale for the diagnosis and medical and surgical approaches to treatment are reviewed. Available outcome studies are presented.


Diagnosis of IIH requires that the modified Dandy criteria be satisfied. Multiple potential contributing causes of intracranial hypertension must be identified or excluded. The clinical presentation most often includes headaches and papilledema, but many other findings have been described. The most important goal of therapy is to prevent or arrest progressive visual loss. Medical therapies include alleviation of associated systemic diseases, discontinuation of contributing medications, provision of carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, and weight loss. Surgical therapies include lumboperitoneal shunting, ventriculoperitoneal shunting, and optic nerve sheath fenestration. On the basis of the advantages and disadvantages of these treatment modalities, a suggested treatment paradigm is presented.


Idiopathic intracranial hypertension is the term to be adopted instead of pseudotumor cerebri. IIH remains an enigmatic diagnosis of exclusion. However, prompt diagnosis and thorough evaluation and treatment are crucial for preventing visual loss and improving associated symptoms.

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