Management of elevated intracranial pressure in patients with cryptococcal meningitis

Richard D. Fessler, Jack Sobel, Lisa Guyot, Lawrence Crane, Jose Vazquez, Mary Jo Szuba, Fernando G. Diaz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

74 Scopus citations


Background: The most important predictor of early mortality in patients with HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis is mental status at presentation; patients who present with altered mental status have up to 25% mortality. Historically, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) diversion in HIV-negative patients with cryptococcal meningitis and signs of elevated intracranial pressure (ICP) has improved survival. In an effort to affect survival and morbidity rates in patients with HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis, we have initiated aggressive management of elevated ICP in patients with focal neurologic deficits, mental obtundation, or both. Methods: We identified 10 patients with HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis who presented with symptoms consistent with elevated ICP, including headache, mental obtundation, papilledema, and cranial nerve palsies. Elevated opening pressure was defined as >20 cm CSF during lumbar puncture. In patients with elevated opening pressures who had focal neurologic deficits or mental status changes refractory to serial lumbar puncture, management consisted of immediate placement of lumbar drains for continuous drainage of CSF to maintain normal ICP (10 cm CSF). Patients with persistent elevations of spinal neuraxis pressure following lumbar drainage underwent placement of lumbar peritoneal shunts. Results: All patients returned to their baseline level of consciousness following normalization of ICP. Two patients were weaned from lumbar drainage. Eight patients eventually required placement of lumbar peritoneal shunts for persistently elevated ICP despite successful antifungal therapy. Follow-up ranged from 1 to 15 months. One shunt infection occurred, one lumbar peritoneal shunt was converted to a ventriculoperitoneal shunt, and one shunt was removed. Conclusions: Elevated ICP in patients with HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis is a significant source of morbidity and mortality. The use of lumbar drainage and selective placement of lumbar peritoneal shunts in the management of elevated ICP in patients with HIV- associated cryptococcal meningitis can ameliorate the sequelae of elevated ICP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-142
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes and Human Retrovirology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 1998
Externally publishedYes



  • Cryptococcal meningitis
  • HIV
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Intracranial pressure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Virology

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