Mannitol causes compensatory cerebral vasoconstriction and vasodilation in response to blood viscosity changes

Jan Paul Muizelaar, E. P. Wel, H. A. Kontos, D. P. Becker

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258 Scopus citations


There is no proof that osmotic agents such a mannitol lower intracranial pressure (ICP) by decreasing brain water content. An alternative mechanism might be a reduction in cerebral blood volume through vasoconstriction. Mannitol, by decreasing blood viscosity, would tend to enhance cerebral blood flow (CBF), but the central verebral vessels would constrict to keep CBF relatively constant, analogous to pressure autoregulation. The cranial window technique was used in this study to measure the pial arteriolar diameter in cats, together with blood viscosity and ICP changes after an intravenous bolus of 1 gm/kg of mannitol. Blood viscosity decreased immediately; the greatest decrease (23%) occurred at 10 minutes, and at 75 minutes there was a 'rebound' increase of 10%. Vessel diameter decreased concomitantly, the largest decrease being 12% at 10 minutes, which is exactly the same as the 12% decrease in diameter associated with pronounced hyperventilation (PaCO2 30 to 19 mm Hg) in the same vessels; at 75 minutes vessel diameter increased by 12%. With hyperventilation, ICP was decreased by 26%; 10 minutes after mannitol was given, ICP decreased by 28%, and at 75 minutes it showed a rebound increase of 40%. The correlation between blood viscosity and vessel diameter and between vessel diameter and ICP was very high. An alternative explanation is offered for the effect of mannitol on ICP, the time course of ICP changes, the 'rebound effect', and the absence of influence on CBF, all with one mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)822-828
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1983
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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