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Curr Opin Crit Care. 2006 Apr;12(2):85-9.

Brain ischaemia after traumatic brain injury: lessons from 15O2 positron emission tomography.

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Division of Anaesthesia, University of Cambridge, Honorary Consultant, Neurosciences Critical Care Unit, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, UK.



To describe the role of O2 positron emission tomography in studies aimed at understanding ischaemia in head injury. It has been difficult to use cerebral blood flow levels to provide a secure definition of cerebral ischaemia in head injury, since primary changes in cerebral metabolism may be responsible for coupled reductions in cerebral blood flow. Further, regional heterogeneity of pathophysiology can confound global measures of adequacy of cerebral oxygen delivery. There is a need for a technique that can provide a comprehensive and quantitative description of cerebral physiology in this setting.


O2 positron emission tomography can image cerebral blood flow, cerebral blood volume, cerebral metabolic rate for oxygen and oxygen extraction fraction, and thus allows a robust and specific definition of true ischaemia. When used in combination with other monitoring tools and imaging modalities, positron emission tomography has also been used to validate and refine bedside monitors of cerebrovascular physiology, study the impact of therapeutic interventions and provide clues to novel pathophysiology.


There is a clear role for O2 positron emission tomography in elucidating pathophysiology in head injury. The technique may provide most information when combined with other imaging and monitoring tools.

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