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J Neurosurg. 1978 May;48(5):689-703.

Autoregulation and CO2 responses of cerebral blood flow in patients with acute severe head injury.


Regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF), cerebral intraventricular pressure (IVP), systemic arterial blood pressure, and cerebral ventricular fluid (CSF) lactate and pH were studied repeatedly in 23 patients during the acute phase of severe brain injury lasting from 3 to 21 days after the trauma. Cerebrovascular autoregulation was tested repeatedly by means of angiotensin infusion in 21 of the patients, and CO2 response in 14 by means of passive hyperventilation. The pressure in the brain ventricles was measured continuously in all patients and kept below 45 mm Hg during the study. If the IVP increased more than 10 mm Hg during the angiotensin infusion (as in one case), the autoregulation test was considered contraindicated and the angiotensin infusion was discontinued. Dissociation between cerebrovascular autoregulation and CO2 response was a common phenomenon. Typically, autoregulation appeared preserved in the most severely injured areas of the cerebral cortex when the patient was deeply comatose, but deteriorated concomitantly with recovery; by the time the patient became alert, the autoregulation was always impaired. The CO2 response was impaired only in patients who were deeply comatose and had attacks of decerebrate rigidity; during recovery the CO2 response became normal. Thus, preserved autoregulation associated with imparied CO2 response indicated very severe brain damage, whereas impaired autoregulation associated with preserved CO2 response suggested moderate or severe brain damage in recovery. These paradoxical observations raise the question whether the preserved autoregulation seen in severely injured brain tissue is a true autoregulation caused by an active vasoconstrictor response to an increase in blood pressure.

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