Dysfunction of vasomotor reactivity in severe sepsis and septic shock

Intensive Care Med. 2001 Jul;27(7):1231-4. doi: 10.1007/s001340101005.


Objective: Perfusion abnormalities are an overall phenomenon in severe sepsis and septic shock, leading to organ dysfunction. We investigated whether carbon dioxide (CO2)-induced vasomotor reactivity (VMR) is impaired in septic patients, compared with values obtained outside sepsis.

Design: Prospective, clinical study.

Setting: Six-bed neurologic critical care unit of a university hospital.

Patients and participants: Eight consecutive patients with severe sepsis and septic shock.

Measurements and results: CO2-reactivity was measured during and outside a period of severe sepsis or septic shock according to ACCP/SCCM criteria by means of transcranial Doppler sonography and near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). VMR was calculated as the percentage change of cerebral blood flow velocity (normalized CO2-reactivity, NCR) and absolute changes in concentration of oxygenated hemoglobin, deoxygenated hemoglobin, total hemoglobin (HbO2, Hb, HbT) and Hbdiff (difference between HbO2 and Hb) in micromol/l per 1% increase in end-tidal CO2 (CR-HbO2, CR-Hb, CR-HbT, CR-Hbdiff). NCR and NIRS-reactivities were significantly reduced during severe sepsis and septic shock compared with values outside sepsis (mean, SD, Wilcoxon): NCR 11.0 (7.1) versus 30.7 (13.0), p < 0.02; CR-HbO2 0.70 (0.61) versus 2.33 (1.11), p < 0.02; CR-Hb -0.17 (0.74) versus -1.42 (1.28), p < 0.04; CR-HbT 0.53 (0.48) versus 1.05 (0.40), p < 0.03; CR-Hbdiff 0.91 (1.33) versus 3.75 (2.33), p < 0.02. This indicates a severely disturbed VMR.

Conclusions: In the advent of a disturbed cerebral autoregulation, critical drops in blood pressure during sepsis are transferred directly into the vascular bed, leading to cerebral hypoperfusion. This mechanism might contribute to the pathogenesis of septic encephalopathy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sepsis / physiopathology*
  • Shock, Septic / physiopathology*
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial
  • Vasomotor System / physiopathology*