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  • Author or Editor: Joseph E. Levasseur x
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Robert B. Duckrow, Joseph C. LaManna, Myron Rosenthal, Joseph E. Levasseur and John L. Patterson Jr.

✓ To assess the metabolic and vascular effects of head trauma, fluid-percussion pressure waves were transmitted to the brains of anesthetized, paralyzed, and artificially ventilated cats. Changes in the redox state of cytochrome a,a 3, and relative local blood volume were measured in situ by dual-wavelength reflection spectrophotometry of the cortical surface viewed through an acrylic cranial window implanted within the closed skull. Initial fluid-percussion impacts of 0.5 to 2.8 atm peak pressure produced consistent transient oxidation of cytochrome a,a 3, and increases of cortical blood volume. These changes occurred despite the presence of transient posttraumatic hypotension in some cases. Also, impact-induced alterations of vascular tone occurred, independent of the presence or absence of transient hypertension in the posttraumatic period. These data demonstrate that hypoxia does not play a role in the immediate posttraumatic period in cerebral cortex, and are consistent with the idea that after injury there is increased cortical energy conservation. These data also support the concept that head trauma alters the relationship of metabolism and cerebral circulation in the period immediately after injury.

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Joseph E. Levasseur, John L. Patterson Jr., Nitya R. Ghatak, Hermes A. Kontos and Surg C. Choi

✓ The function-specific enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) was tested for its protective effect in severe experimental fluid-percussion brain injury (4.45 ± 0.10 atm) in 30 of 60 randomly selected male Sprague-Dawley rats. A respirator was used only in the event of need. The number of animals with permanent resumption of spontaneous breathing (Type I respiratory response) remained essentially the same in each group. However, when Type II apnea (cannot maintain recovery) and Type III apnea (never recovers from the initial apnea) were terminated with a respirator, all rats with Type II responses from each group were successfully converted to a state of sustained spontaneous breathing. In contrast, only five (41.7%) of the 12 rats with Type III response were salvaged in the control group while five (83.3%) of six Type III rats in the SOD-treated group were saved. The results reveal the nature of the therapeutic effectiveness of superoxide radical scavengers in the overall outcome of head injury in this animal model. While SOD alone did not increase the number of spontaneous survivors, the drug shifted a number of animals from the critically injured rats with Type III respiratory response to the less critical Type II condition. Whereas induced respiration as the sole therapy in the control group lowered the mortality rate to 23.3%, respiratory assistance together with SOD treatment reduced the “mortality” to a single animal with Type III apnea (3.3%) which was alive but still required the respirator after 2 hours (p < 0.001). The results show that respiratory assistance alone accounted for a 33% decrease in mortality rate and that SOD, given in addition to induced ventilation, further decreased mortality by 20%. Since SOD enzymes are reactively specific for superoxide, the increased survival rate of the brain-injured rat must have been due either to preventing or to minimizing pathophysiological changes, probably in the brain stem, caused by oxygen free radicals.

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Wilson P. Daugherty, Joseph E. Levasseur, Dong Sun, Gaylan L. Rockswold and M. Ross Bullock

Object. In the current study, the authors examined the effects of hyperbaric O2 (HBO) following fluid-percussion brain injury and its implications on brain tissue oxygenation (PO2) and O2 consumption (VO2) and mitochondrial function (redox potential).

Methods. Cerebral tissue PO2 was measured following induction of a lateral fluid-percussion brain injury in rats. Hyperbaric O2 treatment (100% O2 at 1.5 ata) significantly increased brain tissue PO2 in both injured and sham-injured animals. For VO2 and redox potential experiments, animals were treated using 30% O2 or HBO therapy for 1 or 4 hours (that is, 4 hours 30% O2 or 1 hour HBO and 3 hours 100% O2). Microrespirometer measurements of VO2 demonstrated significant increases following HBO treatment in both injured and sham-injured animals when compared with animals that underwent 30% O2 treatment. Mitochondrial redox potential, as measured by Alamar blue fluorescence, demonstrated injury-induced reductions at 1 hour postinjury. These reductions were partially reversed at 4 hours postinjury in animals treated with 30% O2 and completely reversed at 4 hours postinjury in animals on HBO therapy when compared with animals treated for only 1 hour.

Conclusions. Analysis of data in the current study demonstrates that HBO significantly increases brain tissue PO2 after injury. Nonetheless, treatment with HBO was insufficient to overcome injury-induced reductions in mitochondrial redox potential at 1 hour postinjury but was able to restore redox potential by 4 hours postinjury. Furthermore, HBO induced an increase in VO2 in both injured and sham-injured animals. Taken together, these data demonstrate that mitochondrial function is depressed by injury and that the recovery of aerobic metabolic function may be enhanced by treatment with HBO.

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J. Paul Muizelaar, Henk G. van der Poel, Zhongchao Li, Hermes A. Kontos and Joseph E. Levasseur

✓ Hyperventilation reduces intracranial pressure (ICP) acutely through vasoconstriction, but its long-term effect on vessel diameter is unknown. In seven rabbits with a cranial window implanted 3 weeks earlier, the effect of prolonged hyperventilation on vessel diameter was studied. Anesthesia was maintained for 54 hours with a pentobarbital drip (1 mg/kg/hr). The pH, CO2, and HCO3 levels were measured in arterial blood and cisterna magna cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The diameter of 31 pial arterioles was measured with an image splitter. After baseline measurements, pCO2 was reduced from 38 to 25 mm Hg and allowed to return to 38 mm Hg for 10 minutes every 4 hours.

There was an initial vasoconstriction of 13%, which progressively diminished by 3% every 4 hours. Thus, by the 20th hour, vessel diameters at a pCO2 of 25 mm Hg had returned to slightly above baseline values obtained at a pCO2 of 38 mm Hg. The temporary return of pCO2 to 38 mm Hg every 4 hours caused vasodilation: 12% at 4 hours, gradually increasing to 16% at 52 hours. Thus, at 52 hours, the vessel diameters were 105% of baseline at a pCO2 of 25 mm Hg and increased to 122% at a pCO2 of 38 mm Hg. Arterial pH had returned to baseline at 20 hours, and CSF pH had returned at 24 hours. Bicarbonate in blood and CSF remained decreased throughout the experiments. In three control experiments during which normocapnia was maintained, vessel diameter and pH and bicarbonate levels remained unaltered over the same period. The CO2 reactivity, tested by brief periods of hyperventilation every 4 hours, also did not change.

These results indicate that hyperventilation is effective in reducing cerebral blood volume for less than 24 hours and that it should be used only during actual ICP elevations. If used preventively, its effect may have worn off by the time ICP starts to rise for other reasons, and further decreases in pCO2 cannot be obtained. Moreover, the reduction in buffer capacity with lower bicarbonate renders the vessels more sensitive to changes in PaCO2. This could lead to more pronounced elevations in ICP during transient rises in PaCO2, such as during endotracheal suctioning in head-injured patients.

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Joseph E. Levasseur, John L. Patterson Jr., Claudia I. Garcia, Michael A. Moskowitz, Sung C. Choi and Hermes A. Kontos

✓ The frequent occurrence of acute death from pulmonary failure in experimental head injury studies on Sprague-Dawley rats prompted an investigation into the manner in which acute neurogenic pulmonary edema develops in these animals as a result of an applied fluid pressure pulse to the cerebral hemispheres. Studies were performed in adult animals using histamine H1 and H2 blocking agents, or in adult animals treated as neonates with capsaicin to destroy unmyelinated C-fibers. Recordings were made of either the pulmonary arterial or the right ventricular pressure, and the left atrial and femoral arterial pressures before, during, and after injury to provide a record of the hemodynamic response throughout the development of neurogenic pulmonary edema. Head injury triggered the almost immediate development of pressure transients with and without neurogenic pulmonary edema. All rats, regardless of treatment, reacted with nearly identical systemic arterial pressure responses; however, the pulmonary responses followed a time course that was independent of systemic arterial pressure changes. Acute neurogenic pulmonary edema was always associated with a substantial increase in pulmonary arterial and left atrial pressures; conversely, pressure increases of similar magnitude were not always associated with edema. Histamine H1 and H2 blockers significantly reduced the pulmonary pressure surges only in rats free of neurogenic pulmonary edema. All capsaicin-treated rats showed suppressed pulmonary pressure responses, normal lung water content, elevated lung surface tension, and significantly reduced levels of immunoreactive substance P in the spinal cord and vagus nerve. While the pressures cannot clarify how edema influences the observed hemodynamics, they do not support the view that edema is the direct consequence of pulmonary hypertension. It is proposed that neurogenic pulmonary edema is a functional disturbance provoked by adverse stimuli from outside the lungs and that in the rat the primary afferent fiber is essential to the production of this entity.

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Hun Joo Kim, Joseph E. Levasseur, John L. Patterson Jr., George F. Jackson, Gordon E. Madge, John T. Povlishock and Hermes A. Kontos

✓ The effect of indomethacin administration on the mortality rate of brain-injured rats was studied in four groups of animals subjected to a level of injury with a fluid-percussion apparatus predetermined to cause 50% mortality (50% lethal dose, or LD50). There were 24 animals in each of the following groups: 1) a control group, on which the LD50 was evaluated; 2) an ethanol-treated group with a mean blood serum level of 0.32 ± 0.03 gm% (± standard error of the mean); 3) an indomethacin-treated group at a dose level of 3 mg/kg body weight administered intraperitoneally 10 to 15 minutes before injury; and 4) an indomethacin/ethanoltreated group. Significant differences in mortality rates were found in these experimental groups; namely, 50%, 58%, 8.3% (p < 0.005), and 25% (p < 0.05), respectively. The predetermined LD50 level of a 2.5- to 2.6-atm peak pressure pulse produced immediate apnea in all animals, which was either sustained (Type III), followed by temporary respiratory recovery (Type II), or followed by permanent resumption of breathing (Type I). The most important effect of indomethacin on respiratory function was manifested by a much higher percentage of Type I respiratory responses and a much lower percentage of Type II and III responses (hence a lower mortality rate). There was also a more rapid return to normal breathing in the postapneic period of recovery. Suppression of prostaglandin synthesis and of superoxide anion production at the onset of trauma may explain, at least in part, these favorable effects of indomethacin.

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Zhengwen Zhou, Wilson P. Daugherty, Dong Sun, Joseph E. Levasseur, Nabil Altememi, Robert J. Hamm, Gaylan L. Rockswold and M. Ross Bullock


Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO2) has been shown to improve outcome after severe traumatic brain injury, but its underlying mechanisms are unknown. Following lateral fluid-percussion injury (FPI), the authors tested the effects of HBO2 treatment as well as enhanced normobaric oxygenation on mitochondrial function, as measured by both cognitive recovery and cellular adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels.


Adult male Sprague–Dawley rats were subjected to moderate lateral FPI or sham injury and were allocated to one of four treatment groups: 1) FPI treated with 4 hours of normobaric 30% O2; 2) FPI treated with 4 hours of normobaric 100% O2; 3) FPI treated with 1 hour of HBO2 plus 3 hours of normobaric 100% O2; and 4) sham-injured treated with normobaric 30% O2. Cognitive outcome was assessed using the Morris water maze (MWM) on Days 11 to 15 after injury. Animals were then killed 21 days postinjury to assess hippocampal neuronal loss. Adenosine triphosphate was extracted from the neocortex and measured using high-performance liquid chromatography. The results showed that injured animals treated with HBO2 or normobaric 100% O2 alone had significantly higher levels of cerebral ATP as compared with animals treated using normobaric 30% O2 (p ≤ 0.05). The injured animals treated with HBO2 had significant improvements in cognitive recovery, as characterized by a shorter latency in MWM performance (p ≤ 0.05), and decreased neuronal loss in the CA2/3 and hilar regions as compared with those treated with 30% or 100% O2 (p ≤ 0.05).


Both hyperbaric and normobaric hyperoxia increased cerebral ATP levels after lateral FPI. In addition, HBO2 treatment improved cognitive recovery and reduced hippocampal neuronal cell loss after brain injury in the rat.