A noninvasive method of monitoring pressure inside the skull — using sound waves — shows promise, researchers report.

Brain disease or a head injury can cause brain tissue to swell, as well as an increase in the volume of fluid that surrounds and protects the brain. This can cause pressure within the skull to rise, and serious complications and even death can result.

Continuous monitoring lets doctors know if and when they must take steps to lower the pressure.

Currently, to monitor intracranial pressure, a hole is drilled into the skull and sensor-equipped catheters are inserted. This procedure carries risks such as bleeding, infection and damage to brain tissue, but no noninvasive ways to monitor pressure are available, the study authors said.

German researchers tested an experimental noninvasive method on 14 patients and got encouraging results, according to an article published Aug. 8 in the Journal of Neurosurgery.

This approach “uses advanced signal analysis algorithms to evaluate properties of acoustic signals that pass through the brain in order to determine” intracranial pressure, according to a journal news release.

“The first results look promising, but further refinements in the algorithm will be necessary to allow a reliable clinical application,” researcher Dr. Oliver Ganslandt said in the news release.

Ganslandt is medical director of the neurosurgery clinic at Klinikum Stuttgart in Germany.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on increased intracranial pressure.