Relationship between transcranial Doppler-determined pulsatility index and cerebrovascular resistance: an experimental study

Marek Czosnyka Ph.D.1, Hugh K. Richards Ph.D.1, Helen E. Whitehouse B.Sc.1, and John D. Pickard M.Chir., F.R.C.S.1
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  • 1 MRC Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair and Academic Neurosurgical Unit, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, England
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✓ Clinical studies with transcranial Doppler suggest that the pulsatility of the flow velocity (FV) waveform increases when the distal cerebrovascular resistance (CVR) increases. To clarify this relationship, the authors studied animal models in which the resistance may be decreased in a controlled manner by an increase in arterial CO2 tension, or by a decrease in cerebral perfusion pressure (CPP) in autoregulating animals. Twelve New Zealand white rabbits were anesthetized, paralyzed, and ventilated. Transcranial Doppler basilar artery FV, laser Doppler cortical blood flow, arterial pressure, intracranial pressure, and end-tidal CO2 concentration were measured continuously. Cerebrovascular resistance (CPP divided by laser Doppler cortical flux) and Gosling Pulsatility Index (PI, defined as an FV pulse amplitude divided by a timed average FV) were calculated as time-dependent variables for each animal.

Four groups of animals undergoing controlled manipulations of CVR were analyzed. In Group I, arterial CO2 concentration was changed gradually from hypocapnia to hypercapnia. In Group II, gradual hemorrhagic hypotension was used to reduce CPP. In Group III, the short-acting ganglion blocking drug trimetaphan was injected intravenously to induce transient hypotension. Intracranial hypertension was produced by subarachnoid saline infusion in Group IV. During the hypercapnic challenge the correlation between the cortical resistance and Doppler flow pulsatility was positive (r = 0.77, p < 0.001). In all three groups in which cerebral perfusion pressure was reduced a negative correlation between pulsatility index and cerebrovascular resistance was found (r = −20.84, p < 0.001). The authors conclude that PI cannot be interpreted simply as an index of CVR in all circumstances.

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