Detecting Cortical Spreading Depolarization with Full Band Scalp Electroencephalography: An Illusion?

Front Neurol. 2018 Jan 25:9:17. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2018.00017. eCollection 2018.


Introduction: There is strong evidence suggesting detrimental effects of cortical spreading depolarization (CSD) in patients with acute ischemic stroke and severe traumatic brain injury. Previous studies implicated scalp electroencephalography (EEG) features to be correlates of CSD based on retrospective analysis of EEG epochs after having detected "CSD" in time aligned electrocorticography. We studied the feasibility of CSD detection in a prospective cohort study with continuous EEG in 18 patients with acute ischemic stroke and 18 with acute severe traumatic brain injury.

Methods: Full band EEG with 21 silver/silver chloride electrodes was started within 48 h since symptom onset. Five additional electrodes were used above the infarct. We visually analyzed all raw EEG data in epochs of 1 h. Inspection was directed at detection of the typical combination of CSD characteristics, i.e., (i) a large slow potential change (SPC) accompanied by a simultaneous amplitude depression of >1Hz activity, (ii) focal presentation, and (iii) spread reflected as appearance on neighboring electrodes with a delay.

Results: In 3,035 one-hour EEG epochs, infraslow activity (ISA) was present in half to three quarters of the registration time. Typically, activity was intermittent with amplitudes of 40-220 µV, approximately half was oscillatory. There was no specific spatial distribution. Relevant changes of ISA were always visible in multiple electrodes, and not focal, as expected in CSD. ISA appearing as "SPC" was mostly associated with an amplitude increase of faster activities, and never with suppression. In all patients, depressions of spontaneous brain activity occurred. However, these were not accompanied by simultaneous SPC, occurred simultaneously on all channels, and were not focal, let alone spread, as expected in CSD.

Conclusion: With full band scalp EEG in patients with cortical ischemic stroke or traumatic brain injury, we observed various ISA, probably modulating cortical excitability. However, we were unable to identify unambiguous characteristics of CSD.

Keywords: acute ischemic stroke; cortical spreading depolarization; full band electroencephalography; infraslow activity; traumatic brain injury.