Are Slow Waves of Intracranial Pressure Suppressed by General Anaesthesia?

17 May 2018

OBJECTIVES: Slow waves of intracranial pressure (ICP) are spontaneous oscillations with a frequency of 0.3-4 cycles/min. They are often associated with pathological conditions, following vasomotor activity in the cranial enclosure. This study quantifies the effects of general anaesthesia (GA) on the magnitude of B-waves compared with natural sleep and the conscious state. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Four groups of 30 patients each were formed to assess the magnitude of slow waves. Group A and group B consisted of normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) patients, each undergoing cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) infusion studies, conscious and under GA respectively. Group C comprised conscious, naturally asleep hydrocephalic patients undergoing overnight ICP monitoring; group D, which included deeply sedated head injury patients monitored in the intensive care unit (ICU), was compared with group C. RESULTS: The average amplitude for group A patients was higher (0.23 ± 0.10 mmHg) than that of group B (0.15 ± 0.10 mmHg; p = 0.01). Overnight magnitude of slow waves was higher in group C (0.20 ± 0.13 mmHg) than in group D (0.11 ± 0.09 mmHg; p = 0.002). CONCLUSION: Slow waves of ICP are suppressed by GA and deep sedation. When using slow waves in clinical decision-making, it is important to consider the patients' level of consciousness to avoid incorrect therapeutic and management decisions.