Background and purpose: The aim of this study was to assess the first multifrequency transcranial Doppler system that was specially developed to automatically detect and discriminate between solid and gaseous cerebral microemboli.
Methods: The multifrequency transcranial Doppler instrumentation insonates simultaneously with 2.5 and 2.0 MHz. Differentiation between solid and gaseous microemboli is based on the principle that solid microemboli reflect more ultrasound at the higher than at the lower frequency, whereas the opposite is the case for gaseous microemboli. In the in vitro studies, 159 plastic spheres (50 or 80 micro m in diameter) and 105 gas bubbles (8 to 25 micro m) were studied in a pulsatile closed-loop system containing irodinium or pig blood. In vivo studies were carried out for 1 hour in 15 patients with mechanical heart valves and in 45 patients with carotid stenosis. This gave a total of 60 hours of online automatic monitoring in patients.
Results: In the in vitro studies, 152 of the 159 (95.6%) plastic spheres were classified as solid, and 7 (4.4%) were classified as uncertain solid. Of the 105 gas bubbles, 99 (94.3%) were classified as gaseous and 6 (5.7%) as uncertain gaseous. Thus, correct classification was made for 251 (95.1%) of the 264 embolic events studied. A comparison between the automatic multifrequency discrimination and the known embolic classification gave a kappa value of 0.897 (P<0.0001). The multifrequency Doppler classified 433 (84.2%) of the 514 emboli detected in the mechanical heart valve patients as gaseous, 74 (14.4%) as solid, and 7 (1.4%) as uncertain (3 uncertain solid, 4 uncertain gas). Thirty-two emboli were detected in 17 (38%) of the 45 carotid stenosis patients; 30 (93.7%) were classified as solid and 2 (6.3%) as uncertain solid.
Conclusions: This study has shown that multifrequency transcranial Doppler can be used to automatically differentiate between solid and gaseous microemboli online. Most detected microemboli in this initial study of mechanical heart valves were classified as gaseous, whereas most were classified as solid in the patients with carotid stenosis.