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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.

Original publication




Journal article


J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg

Publication Date





1759 - 1765


Aged, Cardiopulmonary Bypass, Coronary Artery Bypass, Coronary Disease, Embolism, Air, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Incidence, Intracranial Embolism and Thrombosis, Intraoperative Complications, Male, Middle Aged, Monitoring, Intraoperative, Probability, Prospective Studies, Risk Assessment, Treatment Outcome, Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial