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Chest. 2005 May;127(5):1812-27.

Hyperventilation in head injury: a review.

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  • 1Neuroscience ICU, Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Milan University, IRCCS, Milan. <>


The aim of this review was to consider the effects of induced hypocapnia both on systemic physiology and on the physiology of the intracranial system. Hyperventilation lowers intracranial pressure (ICP) by the induction of cerebral vasoconstriction with a subsequent decrease in cerebral blood volume. The downside of hyperventilation, however, is that cerebral vasoconstriction may decrease cerebral blood flow to ischemic levels. Considering the risk-benefit relation, it would appear to be clear that hyperventilation should only be considered in patients with raised ICP, in a tailored way and under specific monitoring. Controversy exists, for instance, on specific indications, timing, depth of hypocapnia, and duration. This review has specific reference to traumatic brain injury, and is based on an extensive evaluation of the literature and on expert opinion.

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