Author(s): Sperry RJ, Bailey PL, Reichman MV, Peterson JC, Petersen PB, Weinstabl C, Spiss CK
Although opioids frequently are administered to patients with severe head trauma, the effects of such drugs on intracranial pressure are controversial. Nine patients with severe head trauma were studied for the effects of fentanyl and sufentanil on intracranial pressure (ICP). In all patients, ICP monitoring was instituted before the study. Full neuromuscular blockade was achieved with vecuronium bromide before the administration of either fentanyl (3 micrograms.kg-1) or sufentanil (0.6 microgram.kg-1) as an intravenous bolus over a 1-min period in a masked and random fashion. Patients received the other opioid in the same fashion 24 h later. Arterial blood pressure, heart rate, and ICP were recorded continuously for the 1 h after drug administration. Fentanyl was associated with an average ICP increase of 8 +/- 2 mmHg, and sufentanil with an increase of 6 +/- 1 mmHg. These increases were statistically significant. Both drugs produced clinically mild decreases in mean arterial blood pressure (fentanyl, 11 +/- 6 mmHg; sufentanil, 10 +/- 5 mmHg) that nevertheless were statistically significant. No significant changes in heart rate occurred. These results indicate that modest doses of potent opioids can significantly increase ICP in patients with severe head trauma.