Brain Protection in Aortic Arch Surgery: An Evolving Field

J Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth. 2021 Apr;35(4):1176-1188. doi: 10.1053/j.jvca.2020.11.035. Epub 2020 Nov 21.


Despite advances in cardiac surgery and anesthesia, the rates of brain injury remain high in aortic arch surgery requiring circulatory arrest. The mechanisms of brain injury, including permanent and temporary neurologic dysfunction, are multifactorial, but intraoperative brain ischemia is likely a major contributor. Maintaining optimal cerebral perfusion during cardiopulmonary bypass and circulatory arrest is the key component of intraoperative management for aortic arch surgery. Various brain monitoring modalities provide different information to improve cerebral protection. Electroencephalography gives crucial data to ensure minimal cerebral metabolism during deep hypothermic circulatory arrest, transcranial Doppler directly measures cerebral arterial blood flow, and near-infrared spectroscopy monitors regional cerebral oxygen saturation. Various brain protection techniques, including hypothermia, cerebral perfusion, pharmacologic protection, and blood gas management, have been used during interruption of systemic circulation, but the optimal strategy remains elusive. Although deep hypothermic circulatory arrest and retrograde cerebral perfusion have their merits, there have been increasing reports about the use of antegrade cerebral perfusion, obviating the need for deep hypothermia. With controversy and variability of surgical practices, moderate hypothermia, when combined with unilateral antegrade cerebral perfusion, is considered safe for brain protection in aortic arch surgery performed with circulatory arrest. The neurologic outcomes of brain protection in aortic arch surgery largely depend on the following three major components: cerebral temperature, circulatory arrest time, and cerebral perfusion during circulatory arrest. The optimal brain protection strategy should be individualized based on comprehensive monitoring and stems from well-executed techniques that balance the major components contributing to brain injury.

Keywords: DHCA; aortic arch surgery; brain protection; cardiac anesthesia; cardiac surgery; cerebral perfusion; deep hypothermic circulatory arrest.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aorta, Thoracic* / diagnostic imaging
  • Aorta, Thoracic* / surgery
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Circulatory Arrest, Deep Hypothermia Induced
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia, Induced*
  • Perfusion
  • Treatment Outcome