Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) for the Treatment of Intracranial Cerebrospinal Fluid Pressure

By Lauren Weiss

Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) was discovered in the 1950’s to be used as a useful treatment for a myriad of conditions. First discovered in its industrial applications, this essay will examine its properties and promise for treating various ailments including intracranial hypertension. Being a small molecule, slightly larger than water, DMSO penetrates into the skin almost immediately, making it useful as an agent to improve the transport of drugs deeper into targeted tissues.

As DMSO enters the body, it acts as a vessel dilator, while simultaneously contracting tiny capillary beds, thereby decreasing swelling. It can also be administered with Dexamethasone to get inside the tissues as an anti-inflammatory.

Intracranial Cerebrospinal Fluid is about 99% percent water and is regulated by sophisticated feedback loops. However, when there is trauma to the brain, pressure is increased rapidly. Dimethyl Sulfoxide has a strong affinity for water, making it ideal for treatment of this condition as it removes water from the area of swelling. A physician is able to inject a diluted solution of DMSO intravenously via slow push method. Isolating a vein near the location of the trauma would be ideal. This procedure is far less invasive and time consuming than the traditional course of treatment, a craniotomy.

Successful clinical trials began in the 1960’s but were abruptly halted by the FDA when one small animal study questioned variations within the lens of the eyes. Often viewed as being a controversial drug within the United States and having a tainted reputation by the FDA, some think it should be reevaluated for use in human medicine. It is a fact that veterinarians use Dimethyl Sulfoxide for treating pain, inflammation, skin conditions, and other maladies both alone and in conjunction with other therapies. Some physicians have been prescribing DMSO for off-label use since 1978, and many more people could be helped if the FDA would allow further studies with DMSO for treating a wider variety of conditions.


1. Williams, D. G. (1996) Miracle Healer:DMSO