The management of the contralateral neck in patients with head and neck cancer who have undergone a radical neck dissection (RND) is controversial. A number of these patients will require a second RND. Sacrifice of both internal jugular veins (IJV) has been felt to lead to increased intracranial pressure (ICP) with subsequent neurologic sequelae. From 1987 to 1991 four patients had staged bilateral RNDs at the West Virginia University. In these patients a subarachnoid bolt was placed to directly monitor ICP. Jugular bulb, mean arterial, pulmonary artery, and central venous pressures were monitored. Electroencephalographic (EEG) monitoring was also performed. All patients demonstrated elevations in ICP immediately on head rotation. Further marked elevations were noted immediately after IJV ligation with a maximum peak at 30 minutes. Pressure levels of greater than 40 mm Hg were observed in three of four patients. Systemic hypertension was observed in response to elevated ICP (Cushing's reflex). All patients studied recovered from surgery without significant sequelae. Within 24 hours the ICP had returned to normal in all patients. Three patients required intraoperative intervention to lower their ICP. We demonstrate that even in a staged second RND there are significant rises in ICP. These are to a level that suggests emergency medical intervention is required. We feel that when the second IJV is sacrificed an increase in ICP should be anticipated, monitored, and treated accordingly.
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