BACKGROUND: Neurocognitive dysfunction remains a limitation of cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass. Intraoperative cerebral microembolization is believed to be one of the most important etiologic factors. Using a new generation of transcranial Doppler ultrasonography, we compared the number and nature of intraoperative microemboli in patients undergoing on-pump and off-pump cardiac surgery procedures.
METHODS: Bilateral continuous transcranial Doppler monitoring of the middle cerebral arteries was performed in 45 patients (15 off-pump coronary artery bypass grafting, 15 on-pump coronary artery bypass grafting, and 15 open cardiac procedures). All recordings were performed using a multi-range, multifrequency system to allow both measurement of the number and discrimination of the nature of microemboli in the 3 different groups.
RESULTS: The median number (interquartile range) of microemboli in the off-pump coronary artery bypass grafting, on-pump coronary artery bypass grafting, and open procedure groups were 40 (28-80), 275 (199-472), and 860 (393-1321), respectively (P < .01). Twelve percent of microemboli in the off-pump coronary artery bypass grafting group were solid compared with 28% and 22% in the on-pump coronary artery bypass grafting and open procedure groups, respectively (P < .05). In the on-pump groups, 24% of microemboli occurred during cardiopulmonary bypass, and 56% occurred during aortic manipulation (cannulation, decannulation, application, and removal of crossclamp or sideclamp). CONCLUSIONS: Cerebral microembolization is significantly reduced with avoidance of cardiopulmonary bypass. The majority of microemboli occurring during cardiac surgery are gaseous, with a higher proportion of solid microemboli in the on-pump group, and may have a different significance for cerebral injury than solid microemboli. The ability to reliably discriminate gas and solid microemboli may have an important role in the implementation of neuroprotective strategies.