When do cerebral emboli appear during open heart operations? A transcranial Doppler study

Ann Thorac Surg. 1991 Feb;51(2):237-41. doi: 10.1016/0003-4975(91)90793-p.


The transcranial Doppler technique enabled the detection of cerebral air emboli in 10 of 10 patients during open-heart valve operations despite standard deairing procedures. With this technique, the occurrence of emboli in the right middle cerebral artery was followed continuously in patients undergoing aortic or mitral valve replacement. Membrane oxygenators were used. Scattered emboli were observed during the insertion of the aortic cannula, at the start of cardiopulmonary bypass, and after the declamping of the aorta with the heart beating while empty. During the period of aortic cross-clamping, no emboli were detected. Despite careful deairing procedures, the recordings indicated a large amount of emboli during filling of the empty beating heart in all 10 patients. Thus, this study indicates that cerebral emboli in open heart procedures are most likely to occur during the redistribution of blood from the heart-lung machine to the patient when the heart is beginning to eject actively, despite careful standard deairing procedures. Meticulous deairing before declamping the aorta is strongly advocated. In addition, a short period of filling of the beating heart before final closure of the aortic incision or vent may decrease the incidence of cerebral emboli. A concomitant reduction in cerebral blood flow by hyperventilation or anesthetics or both during filling of the empty beating heart may also be beneficial.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aortic Valve / surgery
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Cerebral Angiography
  • Embolism, Air / diagnostic imaging*
  • Embolism, Air / etiology
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Embolism and Thrombosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Intracranial Embolism and Thrombosis / etiology
  • Mitral Valve / surgery
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ultrasonography