By infusing saline intrathecally at a constant rate until a new steady-state cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pressure is attained, one can estimate clinically the apparent resistance (Ra) to drainage of CSF in mm saline/ml./minute. This intrathecal saline infusion test (ITSIT) was performed 36 times on 29 patients with diverse intracranial problems, and the results were analysed and, in most cases, compared with the pneumoencephalogram and the isotope cisternogram. The ITSIT is a safe, simple test to estimate Ra, but factors which are difficult to control (occult leaks from the subarachnoid space; independent fluctuations of CSF pressure) limit its reliability and clinical usefulness. If closely correlated with the clinical syndrome, the pneumoencephalogram, and the isotope cisternogram, an ITSIT may identify decisively the patient who needs a shunt. In addition the ITSIT offers another method by which to investigate the pathophysiological mechanisms of the various states of intracranial hypertension. Results from the test performed on four patients with intracranial hypertension of unknown cause (pseudotumor cerebri) suggest that the underlying mechanism in this condition is probably an impediment to normal CSF drainage.
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