Impairment of cerebral oxygenation in neonates and infants after hypothermic nonpulsatile cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) support is well documented. The objectives of this study were: 1) using a neonatal piglet model to continuously monitor the regional cerebral oxygen saturation (rSO2) by near-infrared spectroscopy during pulsatile hypothermic CPB; and 2) to quantify the pulsatile flow in terms of energy equivalent pressure (EEP). After initiation of CPB, all piglets (n = 5) were subjected to 15 minutes of core cooling, reducing the rectal temperature to 25 degrees C, followed by 60 minutes of hypothermic CPB, then 10 minutes of cold reperfusion, and 30 minutes of rewarming. During CPB, mean arterial pressures (MAPs) and pump flow rates were maintained at 40-45 mm Hg and 150 ml/kg/min, respectively. During normothermic CPB, the rSO2 was significantly increased, compared with the pre-CPB level (56.8 +/- 5.2% vs. 41.8 +/- 5.5%, p < 0.01). At the end of cooling, the rSO2 level was 76.8 +/- 8.6% (p < 0.001 vs. pre-CPB). After 60 minutes of hypothermic CPB and 30 minutes of rewarming, the rSO2 level was decreased to 38.6 +/- 4.2%, which was not significantly different compared with the pre-CPB level. The average increase in pressure (from MAP to EEP) was 5 +/- 1%, and the average increase in extracorporeal circuit pressure (from ECCP to EEP) was 13 +/- 2%. This extra pressure may help to provide better regional cerebral oxygen saturation. During pulsatile CPB, there was no rSO2 deficiency in this high flow model. Near-infrared spectroscopy responded well to changes in rSO2 during different stages of these experiments and might be a helpful tool for intraoperative monitoring.