The intracranial pressure (ICP) responses to administration of either halothane or isoflurane were compared in New Zealand white rabbits following a standardized cryogenic brain injury. Animals were tracheally intubated and paralyzed, and background anesthesia was maintained with morphine sulfate and nitrous oxide. Following injury and attainment of an elevated and stable ICP, animals were divided into four groups. Animals in groups I and III were maintained normocapnic throughout the experiment and administered 1 MAC halothane or isoflurane, respectively. Group II and IV animals were made hypocapnic (Pa(CO2) = 20 mmHg) prior to the administration of either 1 MAC halothane or isoflurane, respectively. Monitored variables were mean arterial blood pressure, ICP (ventriculostomy), end-tidal (ET) CO2, ET volatile anesthetic, the electroencephalogram, temperature, and arterial blood gases. Prior to producing the lesion, ICP was approximately 5 mmHg in all animals with no differences among groups. Sixty to ninety minutes after injury, ICP increased significantly to approximately 20 mmHg in all animals. Introduction of either halothane or isoflurane was associated with significant increases in ICP in all groups to approximately 30 mmHg. These data suggest that further significant increases in ICP may occur following introduction of either halothane or isoflurane in the presence of acute brain injury and elevated ICP. Furthermore, these ICP increases may not be altered by the prior establishment of hypocapnia.