The methods for continuous assessment of cerebral autoregulation using correlation, phase shift, or transmission (either in time- or frequency-domain) were introduced a decade ago. They express dynamic relationships between slow waves of transcranial Doppler (TCD), blood flow velocity (FV) and cerebral perfusion pressure (CPP), or arterial pressure (ABP). We review a methodology and clinical application of indices useful for monitoring cerebral autoregulation and pressure-reactivity in various scenarios of neuro-critical care.
Facts: Poor autoregulation and loss of pressure-reactivity are independent predictors of fatal outcome following head injury. Autoregulation is impaired by too low or too high CPP when compared to autoregulation with normal CPP (usually between 60 and 85 mmHg; and these limits are highly individual). Hemispheric asymmetry of the bi-laterally assessed autoregulation has been associated with asymmetry of CT scan findings: autoregulation was found to be worse ipsilateral to contusion or lateralized edema causing midline shift. The pressure-reactivity (PRx index) correlated with a state of low CBF and CMRO2 revealed using PET studies. The PRx is easier to monitor over prolonged periods of time than the TCD-based indices as it does not require fixation of external probes. Continuous monitoring with the PRx can be used to direct CPP-oriented therapy by determining the optimal CPP for pressure-reactivity. Autoregulation indices are able to reflect transient changes of autoregulation, as seen during plateau waves of ICP. However, minute-to-minute assessment of autoregulation has a poor signal-to-noise ratio. Averaging across time (30 min) or by combining with other relevant parameters improves the accuracy. MYTHS: It is debatable whether the TCD-based indices in head injured patients can be calculated using ABP instead of CPP. Thresholds for functional and disturbed autoregulation dramatically depends on arterial tension of CO2--therefore, comparison between patients cannot be performed without comparing their PaCO2. The TCD pulsatility index cannot accurately detect the lower limit of autoregulation. MISSING LINKS: We still do not know whether autoregulation-oriented therapy can be understood as a consensus between CPP-directed protocols and the Lund-concept. What are the links between endothelial function and autoregulation indices? Can autoregulation after head injury be improved with statins or EPO, as in subarachnoid hemorrhage? In conclusion, monitoring cerebral autoregulation can be used in a variety of clinical scenarios and may be helpful in delineating optimal therapeutic strategies.