Microvascular shunts in the pathogenesis of high intracranial pressure

Authors: Nemoto EM, Bragin D, Stippler M, Pappu S, Kraynik J, Berlin T, Yonas H.

Hyperemia in the infarcted brain has been -suggested for years by "red veins" reported by neurosurgeons, shunt peaks in radioactive blood flow clearance curves, and quantitative cerebral blood flow using stable xenon CT. Histological characterization of infarcted brain revealed capillary rarefaction with prominent microvascular shunts (MVS). Despite abundant histological evidence, the presence of cerebrovascular shunts have been largely ignored, perhaps because of a lack of physiological evidence demonstrating the transition from capillary flow to MVS flow. Our studies have shown that high intracranial pressure induces a transition from capillary to microvascular shunt flow resulting in cerebral hypoperfusion, tissue hypoxia and brain edema, which could be delayed by increasing cerebral perfusion pressure. The transition from capillary to microvascular shunt flow provides for the first time a physiological basis for evaluating the optimal cerebral perfusion pressure with increased intracranial pressure. It also provides a physiological basis for evaluating the effectiveness of various drugs and therapies in reducing intracranial pressure and the development of brain edema and tissue hypoxia after brain injury and ischemia. In summary, the clear-cut demonstration of the transition from capillary to MVS flow provides an important method for evaluating various therapies for the treatment of brain edema and loss of autoregulation.

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Acta Neurochir Suppl. 2013;118:205-9. doi: 10.1007/978-3-7091-1434-6_38.