Longer Duration of Cardiopulmonary Bypass Is Associated With Greater Numbers of Cerebral Microemboli

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Background and PurposeMany patients who undergo cardiac surgery assisted with cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) experience cerebral injury, and microemboli are thought to play a role. Because an increased duration of CPB is associated with an increased risk of subsequent cerebral dysfunction, we investigated whether cerebral microemboli were also more numerous with a longer duration of CPB.MethodsBrain specimens were obtained from 36 patients who died within 3 weeks after CPB. Specimens were embedded in celloidin, sectioned 100 μm thick, and stained for endogenous alkaline phosphatase, which outlines arterioles and capillaries. In such preparations, emboli can be seen as swellings in the vessels. Cerebral microemboli were counted in equal areas and scored as small, medium, or large to estimate the embolic load (volume of emboli).ResultsWith increasing survival time after CPB, the embolic load declined (P <0.0001). (Lipid emboli are known to pump slowly through the brain.) Also with increasing time after CPB, the percentage of large and medium emboli became lower (P =0.0034). This decline is consistent with the concept that the emboli break into smaller globules as they pass through the capillary network. A longer duration of CPB was associated with increased embolic load (P =0.0026). For each 1-hour increase in the duration of CPB, the embolic load increased by 90.5%.ConclusionsThousands of microemboli were found in the brains of patients soon after CPB, and an increasing duration of CPB was associated with an increasing embolic load.

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