Regulation of cerebral autoregulation by carbon dioxide

Anesthesiology. 2015 Jan;122(1):196-205. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0000000000000506.


Cerebral autoregulation describes a mechanism that maintains cerebral blood flow stable despite fluctuating perfusion pressure. Multiple nonperfusion pressure processes also regulate cerebral perfusion. These mechanisms are integrated. The effect of the interplay between carbon dioxide and perfusion pressure on cerebral circulation has not been specifically reviewed. On the basis of the published data and speculation on the aspects that are without supportive data, the authors offer a conceptualization delineating the regulation of cerebral autoregulation by carbon dioxide. The authors conclude that hypercapnia causes the plateau to progressively ascend, a rightward shift of the lower limit, and a leftward shift of the upper limit. Conversely, hypocapnia results in the plateau shifting to lower cerebral blood flows, unremarkable change of the lower limit, and unclear change of the upper limit. It is emphasized that a sound understanding of both the limitations and the dynamic and integrated nature of cerebral autoregulation fosters a safer clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Flow Velocity / physiology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypercapnia / metabolism
  • Hypercapnia / physiopathology
  • Hypocapnia / metabolism
  • Hypocapnia / physiopathology


  • Carbon Dioxide