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J Neurosurg. 2011 Feb;114(2):470-7. doi: 10.3171/2010.2.JNS091017. Epub 2010 Mar 5.

Early optical detection of cerebral edema in vivo.

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Department of Neurological Surgery, University of California, Irvine, California, USA.



Cerebral edema is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in diverse disease states. Currently, the means to detect progressive cerebral edema in vivo includes the use of intracranial pressure (ICP) monitors and/or serial radiological studies. However, ICP measurements exhibit a high degree of variability, and ICP monitors detect edema only after it becomes sufficient to significantly raise ICP. The authors report the development of 2 distinct minimally invasive fiberoptic near-infrared (NIR) techniques able to directly detect early cerebral edema.


Cytotoxic brain edema was induced in adult CD1 mice via water intoxication by intraperitoneal water administration (30% body weight intraperitoneally). An implantable dual-fiberoptic probe was stereotactically placed into the cerebral cortex and connected to optical source and detector hardware. Optical sources consisted of either broadband halogen illumination or a single-wavelength NIR laser diode, and the detector was a sensitive NIR spectrometer or optical power meter. In one subset of animals, a left-sided craniectomy was performed to obtain cortical biopsies for water-content determination to verify cerebral edema. In another subset of animals, an ICP transducer was placed on the contralateral cortex, which was synchronized to a computer and time stamped.


Using either broadband illumination with NIR spectroscopy or single-wavelength laser diode illumination with optical power meter detection, the authors detected a reduction in NIR optical reflectance during early cerebral edema. The time intervals between water injection (Time Point 0), optical trigger (defined as a 2-SD change in optical reflectance from baseline), and defined threshold ICP values of 10, 15 and 20 mm Hg were calculated. Reduction in NIR reflectance occurred significantly earlier than any of the ICP thresholds (p < 0.001). Saline-injected control mice exhibited a steady baseline optical signal. There was a significant correlation between reflectance change and tissue specific gravity of the cortical biopsies, further validating the dual-fiberoptic probe as a direct measure of cerebral edema.


Compared with traditional ICP monitoring, the aforementioned minimally invasive NIR techniques allow for the significantly earlier detection of cerebral edema, which may be of clinical utility in the identification and thus early treatment of cerebral edema.

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