Extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a life-saving intervention for severe respiratory and cardiac diseases. However, 50% of survivors have abnormal neurologic exams. Current ECMO management is guided by systemic metrics, which may poorly predict cerebral perfusion. Continuous optical monitoring of cerebral hemodynamics during ECMO holds potential to detect risk factors of brain injury such as impaired cerebrovascular autoregulation (CA).
We conducted daily measurements of microvascular cerebral blood flow (CBF), oxygen saturation, and total hemoglobin concentration using diffuse correlation spectroscopy (DCS) and frequency-domain diffuse optical spectroscopy in nine neonates. We characterize CA utilizing the correlation coefficient (DCSx) between CBF and mean arterial blood pressure (MAP) during ECMO pump flow changes.
Average MAP and pump flow levels were weakly correlated with CBF and were not correlated with cerebral oxygen saturation. CA integrity varied between individuals and with time. Systemic measurements of MAP, pulse pressure, and left cardiac dysfunction were not predictive of impaired CA.
Our pilot results suggest that systemic measures alone cannot distinguish impaired CA from intact CA during ECMO. Furthermore, optical neuromonitoring could help determine patient-specific ECMO pump flows for optimal CA integrity, thereby reducing risk of secondary brain injury.