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Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2011 Nov 28;369(1955):4452-69. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2011.0242.

Shedding light on the adult brain: a review of the clinical applications of near-infrared spectroscopy.

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  • Department of Neurocritical Care, The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, University College London Hospitals, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK. martin.smith@uclh.nhs.uk


Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) has potential as a non-invasive brain monitor in a wide range of clinical scenarios. In the last decade, there has been a rapid expansion of clinical experience using NIRS to monitor cerebral oxygenation, particularly in cardiac surgery, where there is some evidence that NIRS-guided brain protection protocols might lead to a reduction in peri-operative neurological complications. There are no data to support the wider application of NIRS to monitor cerebral oxygenation during routine anaesthesia and surgery, and its application in brain injury, where it might be expected to have a key monitoring role, is as yet undefined. Technological developments, including the introduction of broadband and time-resolved spectrometers that are capable of reliably measuring changes in oxidized cytochrome c oxidase, offer real potential for a single NIRS-based device to provide multi-site, regional monitoring of cerebral metabolic status as well as oxygenation and haemodynamics.

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