Transcranial Doppler ultrasonography in neurological surgery and neurocritical care

Neurosurg Focus. 2019 Dec 1;47(6):E2. doi: 10.3171/2019.9.FOCUS19611.


Transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasonography is an inexpensive, noninvasive means of measuring blood flow within the arteries of the brain. In this review, the authors outline the technology underlying TCD ultrasonography and describe its uses in patients with neurosurgical diseases. One of the most common uses of TCD ultrasonography is monitoring for vasospasm following subarachnoid hemorrhage. In this setting, elevated blood flow velocities serve as a proxy for vasospasm and can herald the onset of ischemia. TCD ultrasonography is also useful in the evaluation and management of occlusive cerebrovascular disease. Monitoring for microembolic signals enables stratification of stroke risk due to carotid stenosis and can also be used to clarify stroke etiology. TCD ultrasonography can identify patients with exhausted cerebrovascular reserve, and after extracranial-intracranial bypass procedures it can be used to assess adequacy of flow through the graft. Finally, assessment of cerebral autoregulation can be performed using TCD ultrasonography, providing data important to the management of patients with severe traumatic brain injury. As the clinical applications of TCD ultrasonography have expanded over time, so has their importance in the management of neurosurgical patients. Familiarity with this diagnostic tool is crucial for the modern neurological surgeon.

Keywords: ACA = anterior cerebral artery; BA = basilar artery; CBF = cerebral blood flow; CPP = cerebral perfusion pressure; CVR = cerebral vascular resistance; DCI = delayed cerebral ischemia; ICA = internal carotid artery; ICP = intracranial pressure; LR = Lindegaard ratio; MAP = mean arterial pressure; MCA = middle cerebral artery; MFV = mean flow velocity; PCA = posterior cerebral artery; PFO = patent foramen ovale; SAH = subarachnoid hemorrhage; TCD = transcranial Doppler; TEE = transesophageal echocardiography; VA = vertebral artery; VMR = vasomotor reserve; eCVR = estimated cerebrovascular reserve; neurocritical care; stroke; transcranial Doppler ultrasonography; traumatic brain injury; vasospasm.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Brain Death / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Ischemia / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Ischemia / etiology
  • Brain Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Revascularization / methods
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Endovascular Procedures / methods
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Embolism / diagnostic imaging
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / methods*
  • Prognosis
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / diagnostic imaging
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial* / methods
  • Vasospasm, Intracranial / diagnostic imaging