Generation, detection and prevention of gaseous microemboli during cardiopulmonary bypass procedure

Int J Artif Organs. 2011 Nov;34(11):1039-51. doi: 10.5301/ijao.5000010.


Neuropsychological injury after cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) is one of the most serious and costly complications arising from the procedure. Gaseous microemboli (GME) have long been implicated as one of the principal causes. There are two major sources of GME: surgical and manual manipulation of the heart and arteries; and the components of the extracorporeal circuit, including the type of pump, different perfusion modes, the design of the oxygenator and reservoir, and the use of vacuum assisted venous drainage (VAVD), all of which have a great impact on the delivery of existing GME to the patients. Transcranial cranial Doppler (TCD) has been used for more than two decades to assess and monitor the quality of extracorporeal perfusion with regard to the blood flow velocity of the middle cerebral arteries (MCA) and emboli detection, contributing to the achievement of better perfusion results. The Emboli Detection and Classification (EDAC) Quantifier has been able to detect and track microemboli in CPB circuits up to 1,000 microemboli per second at flow rates ranging from 0.2 L/min to 6.0 L/min. The deleterious effects of GME are multiple, including damage to the cerebral vascular endothelium, disruption of the blood-brain barrier, complement activation, leukocyte aggregation, increased platelet adherence, and fibrin deposition in the micro-vasculature. Improvements in perfusion equipment and in perfusion and surgical techniques have led to a dramatic reduction in the occurrence of GME during cardiac surgery. Although the clinical relevance of cerebral air embolization in causing neurological damage is unclear, every single person involved in perfusion and surgical technology should be aware of the risk of embolization and strictly regulate clinical behavior. Related research should also be done to improve the design of circuit components and clinical practice with a view to eliminating air bubbles during CPB procedure.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air
  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Cardiopulmonary Bypass / adverse effects*
  • Cardiopulmonary Bypass / instrumentation
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Embolism, Air* / diagnosis
  • Embolism, Air* / etiology
  • Embolism, Air* / physiopathology
  • Embolism, Air* / prevention & control
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Embolism* / diagnosis
  • Intracranial Embolism* / etiology
  • Intracranial Embolism* / physiopathology
  • Intracranial Embolism* / prevention & control
  • Middle Cerebral Artery / diagnostic imaging
  • Middle Cerebral Artery / physiopathology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial