Spreading depression in continuous electroencephalography of brain trauma

Ann Neurol. 2014 Nov;76(5):681-94. doi: 10.1002/ana.24256. Epub 2014 Sep 17.


Objective: Cortical spreading depolarizations are a pathophysiological mechanism and candidate target for advanced monitoring in acute brain injury. Here we investigated manifestations of spreading depolarization in continuous electroencephalography (EEG) as a broadly applicable, noninvasive method for neuromonitoring.

Methods: Eighteen patients requiring surgical treatment of traumatic brain injury were monitored by invasive electrocorticography (ECoG; subdural electrodes) and noninvasive scalp EEG during intensive care. Spreading depolarizations were first identified in subdural recordings, and EEG was then examined visually and quantitatively to identify correlates.

Results: A total of 455 spreading depolarizations occurred during 65.9 days of simultaneous ECoG/EEG monitoring. For 179 of 455 events (39%), depolarizations caused temporally isolated, transient depressions of spontaneous EEG amplitudes to 57% (median) of baseline power. Depressions lasted 21 minutes (median) and occurred as suppressions of high-amplitude delta activity present as a baseline pattern in the injured hemisphere. For 62 of 179 (35%) events, isolated depressions showed a clear spread of depression between EEG channels with delays of 17 minutes (median), sometimes spanning the entire hemisphere. A further 188 of 455 (41%) depolarizations were associated with continuous EEG depression that lasted hours to days due to ongoing depolarizations. Depolarizations were also evidenced in EEG as shifts in direct current potentials.

Interpretation: Leão's spreading depression can be observed in clinically standard, continuous scalp EEG, and underlying depolarizations can spread widely across the injured cerebral hemisphere. These results open the possibility of monitoring noninvasively a neuronal pathophysiological mechanism in a wide range of disorders including ischemic stroke, subarachnoid hemorrhage, and brain trauma, and suggest a novel application for continuous EEG.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Cortical Spreading Depression*
  • Critical Care
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult