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Front Neurol. 2013 Jan 28;4:3. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2013.00003. eCollection 2013.

Refractory intracranial hypertension due to fentanyl administration following closed head injury.

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Division of Critical Care Neurology, Mayo Clinic Rochester, MN, USA.



Although the effects of opioids on intracranial pressure (ICP) have long been a subject of controversy, they are frequently administered to patients with severe head trauma. We present a patient with an uncommon paradoxical response to opioids.


A patient with refractory intracranial hypertension after closed head injury was managed with standard medical therapy with only transient decreases in the ICP. Only after discontinuation of opiates did the ICP become manageable without metabolic suppression and rescue osmotic therapy, implicating opiates as the etiology of refractory intracranial hypertension in this patient.


Clinicians should consider opioids as a contributing factor in malignant intracranial hypertension when findings on neuroimaging do not explain persistent and refractory intracranial hypertension.


closed head injury; fentanyl; intracranial hypertension; morphine; opioids; traumatic brain injury

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