Background: Cerebral blood flow (CBF) regulation is a critical element in cerebrovascular pathophysiology, particularly in large vessel disease. Different methods to assess hemodynamics may represent different aspects of blood flow regulation, however, uniquely affecting outcomes and management. We examined 4 different blood-flow related measures in patients with high-grade unilateral carotid disease, assessing asymmetry between the occluded vs non-occluded side, and the correlations among the measures.
Methods: Thirty-three patients (age 50-93, 19M) with unilateral 80-100% ICA occlusion but no stroke underwent: 1) quantitative resting CBF using continuous arterial spin labeling (CASL) MRI, 2) mean flow velocity (MFV) in both middle cerebral arteries (MCAs) by transcranial Doppler, 3). Vasomotor reactivity (VMR) in response to 2 minutes of 5% CO2 inhalation, and 4) Dynamic cerebral autoregulation (DCA) using continuous insonation of both MCAs for 10 minutes at depth 56mm with a standard head frame. Phase shift (PS) between spontaneous oscillations in blood pressure (measured with finger photoplethysmography) and MCA MFV at frequencies .06-.12 Hz was calculated for each hemisphere using transfer function analysis. Lower PS indicated worse autoregulation. Paired T-tests and Pearson correlations were used to look for side-to-side differences within each measure, and correlations between measures (SPSS v.22).
Results: CASL CBF (p=.001), MFV (p<.001), VMR (p=.008), and DCA (p=.047) all showed significantly lower values on the occluded side. The 4 measures were independent of each other on correlation analysis, even when controlling for age and anterior circle of Willis collateral (correlation coefficients all <0.40, p-values >0.09).
Conclusions: These 4 measures showed high sensitivity to the occluded carotid artery, but appear to represent independent aspects of cerebral blood flow (CASL: resting gray matter CBF; MFV: whole-hemisphere CBF; VMR: cerebrovascular reserve, and DCA: homeostatic blood flow regulation) suggesting that any given measure only partially characterizes hemodynamic state. Further investigation will use these 4 measures to predict outcomes including vascular cognitive impairment.