Subclinical cerebral complications after coronary artery bypass grafting: prospective analysis with magnetic resonance imaging, quantitative electroencephalography, and neuropsychological assessment

Arch Neurol. 1998 May;55(5):618-27. doi: 10.1001/archneur.55.5.618.


Objective: To analyze the frequency and severity of subclinical cerebral complications associated with coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG).

Design: A prospective controlled study using preoperative and postoperative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, quantitative electroencephalography (QEEG), and detailed neuropsychological and neurologic examinations as potentially sensitive indicators of subclinical cerebral injury associated with CABG.

Setting: Multimodality evaluation in a tertiary care unit (Kuopio University Hospital, Kuopio, Finland).

Patients: Thirty-eight patients undergoing elective CABG and 20 control patients undergoing other major vascular surgery, mostly operations on the abdominal aorta.

Main outcome measures: Coronary artery bypass grafting-associated cerebral complications assessed preoperatively and postoperatively by brain MRI, QEEG, detailed neurologic examination, and a neuropsychological test battery that evaluates cognitive functions in major areas known to be vulnerable to organic impairment (learning and memory, attention, flexible mental processing, and psychomotor speed).

Results: There were no major neurologic complications. A mild hemisyndrome developed in 1 patient who underwent CABG and in 1 control patient. Overall, there was no decline in mean cognitive performance 3 months after surgery. Electroencephalographic slowing of 0.5 Hz or more in at least 2 channels occurred in 11 patients who underwent CABG and in 1 control patient (P=.03). The postoperative brain MRI scan revealed new small ischemic lesions in 8 patients (21%) in the CABG group but in none of the control group (P=.03). These new cerebral MRI lesions did not explain deterioration in neuropsychological test performance or the QEEG slowing.

Conclusions: Coronary artery bypass grafting causes more QEEG alterations and small ischemic cerebral lesions that are detectable by MRI than does other major vascular surgery. The effect is mainly subclinical, because no statistically significant deterioration in mean neuropsychological test performance was detected.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Injuries / pathology
  • Coronary Artery Bypass / adverse effects*
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures