The ontogeny of cerebrovascular pressure autoregulation in premature infants

J Perinatol. 2014 Dec;34(12):926-31. doi: 10.1038/jp.2014.122. Epub 2014 Jul 10.


Objective: To quantify cerebrovascular autoregulation as a function of gestational age (GA) and across the phases of the cardiac cycle.

Study design: The present study is a hypothesis-generating re-analysis of previously published data. Premature infants (n=179) with a GA range of 23 to 33 weeks were monitored with umbilical artery catheters and transcranial Doppler insonation of the middle cerebral artery for 1-h sessions over the first week of life. Autoregulation was quantified by three methods, as a moving correlation coefficient between: (1) systolic arterial blood pressure (ABP) and systolic cerebral blood flow (CBF) velocity (Sx); (2) mean ABP and mean CBF velocity (Mx); and (3) diastolic ABP and diastolic CBF velocity (Dx). Comparisons of individual and cohort cerebrovascular pressure autoregulation were made across GA for each aspect of the cardiac cycle.

Results: Systolic, mean and diastolic ABP increased with GA (r=0.3, 0.4 and 0.4; P<0.0001). Systolic CBF velocity was pressure-passive in infants with the lowest GA, and Sx decreased with advancing GA (r=-0.3; P<0.001), indicating increased capacity for cerebral autoregulation during systole during development. By contrast, Dx was elevated, indicating dysautoregulation, in all subjects and showed minimal change with advancing GA (r=-0.06; P=0.05). Multivariate analysis confirmed that both GA (P<0.001) and 'effective cerebral perfusion pressure' (ABP minus critical closing pressure (CrCP); P<0.01) were associated with Sx.

Conclusion: Premature infants have low and usually pressure-passive diastolic CBF velocity. By contrast, the regulation of systolic CBF velocity by pressure autoregulation developed in this cohort between 23 and 33 weeks GA. Elevated effective cerebral perfusion pressure derived from the CrCP was associated with dysautoregulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Blood Flow Velocity / physiology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Gestational Age
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Premature / physiology*
  • Middle Cerebral Artery / physiology