What is the Role of Hyperosmolar Therapy in Hemispheric Stroke Patients?

Nathan Mohney, Omar Alkhatib, Sebastian Koch, Kristine O’Phelan, Amedeo Merenda

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The role of hyperosmolar therapy (HT) in large hemispheric ischemic or hemorrhagic strokes remains a controversial issue. Past and current stroke guidelines state that it represents a reasonable therapeutic measure for patients with either neurological deterioration or intracranial pressure (ICP) elevations documented by ICP monitoring. However, the lack of evidence for a clear effect of this therapy on radiological tissue shifts and clinical outcomes produces uncertainty with respect to the appropriateness of its implementation and duration in the context of radiological mass effect without clinical correlates of neurological decline or documented elevated ICP. In addition, limited data suggest a theoretical potential for harm from the prophylactic and protracted use of HT in the setting of large hemispheric lesions. HT exerts effects on parenchymal volume, cerebral blood volume and cerebral perfusion pressure which may ameliorate global ICP elevation and cerebral blood flow; nevertheless, it also holds theoretical potential for aggravating tissue shifts promoted by significant interhemispheric ICP gradients that may arise in the setting of a large unilateral supratentorial mass lesion. The purpose of this article is to review the literature in order to shed light on the effects of HT on brain tissue shifts and clinical outcome in the context of large hemispheric strokes, as well as elucidate when HT should be initiated and when it should be avoided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)609-619
Number of pages11
JournalNeurocritical Care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • Edema
  • Hemispheric infarct
  • Herniation
  • Hyperosmolar therapy
  • Ischemic stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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