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Br J Anaesth. 2012 Jan;108(1):89-99. doi: 10.1093/bja/aer324. Epub 2011 Oct 27.

What comes first? The dynamics of cerebral oxygenation and blood flow in response to changes in arterial pressure and intracranial pressure after head injury.

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Division of Neurosurgery, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Cambridge, Addenbrooke' s Hospital, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 0QQ, UK.



Brain tissue partial oxygen pressure (Pbt(O(2))) and near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) are novel methods to evaluate cerebral oxygenation. We studied the response patterns of Pbt(O(2)), NIRS, and cerebral blood flow velocity (CBFV) to changes in arterial pressure (AP) and intracranial pressure (ICP).


Digital recordings of multimodal brain monitoring from 42 head-injured patients were retrospectively analysed. Response latencies and patterns of Pbt(O(2)), NIRS-derived parameters [tissue oxygenation index (TOI) and total haemoglobin index (THI)], and CBFV reactions to fluctuations of AP and ICP were studied.


One hundred and twenty-one events were identified. In reaction to alterations of AP, ICP reacted first [4.3 s; inter-quartile range (IQR) -4.9 to 22.0 s, followed by NIRS-derived parameters and CBFV (10.9 s; IQR: -5.9 to 39.6 s, 12.1 s; IQR: -3.0 to 49.1 s, 14.7 s; IQR: -8.8 to 52.3 s for THI, CBFV, and TOI, respectively), with Pbt(O(2)) reacting last (39.6 s; IQR: 16.4 to 66.0 s). The differences in reaction time between NIRS parameters and Pbt(O(2)) were significant (P<0.001). Similarly when reactions to ICP changes were analysed, NIRS parameters preceded Pbt(O(2)) (7.1 s; IQR: -8.8 to 195.0 s, 18.1 s; IQR: -20.6 to 80.7 s, 22.9 s; IQR: 11.0 to 53.0 s for THI, TOI, and Pbt(O(2)), respectively). Two main patterns of responses to AP changes were identified. With preserved cerebrovascular reactivity, TOI and Pbt(O(2)) followed the direction of AP. With impaired cerebrovascular reactivity, TOI and Pbt(O(2)) decreased while AP and ICP increased. In 77% of events, the direction of TOI changes was concordant with Pbt(O(2)).


NIRS and transcranial Doppler signals reacted first to AP and ICP changes. The reaction of Pbt(O(2)) is delayed. The results imply that the analysed modalities monitor different stages of cerebral oxygenation.

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