Transcranial Doppler detection of circulating cerebral emboli. A review.
The identification of gaseous emboli using Doppler ultrasound was described as early as the 1960s. Recently it has been demonstrated that this method can also detect solid emboli such as thrombi and platelet aggregates. This may make this technology useful in a large number of patients with, or at risk of, embolic stroke.
Emboli appear as short-duration, high-intensity signals in the Doppler spectrum. The intensity of the Doppler signal from an artery containing an embolus depends on the density difference between the embolic material and blood. This difference is greatest for gaseous emboli, which are therefore the most easy to detect. Gaseous emboli have been demonstrated during deep-sea diving, and their presence correlates with the occurrence of decompression sickness. Similar signals have been detected during cardiopulmonary bypass. A relation has been demonstrated between the number of emboli detected by transcranial Doppler and a decline in neuropsychological function after cardiopulmonary bypass. Solid emboli such as thrombi and platelet aggregates result in less intense signals than air emboli. Their detection, using Doppler ultrasound, has recently been described in patients with prosthetic heart valves, atrial fibrillation, and carotid artery disease. It may also help in the detection and localization of embolic sources in patients with stroke. Studies in in vitro and in vivo models demonstrate that this technique provides information on the size and type of emboli. Larger emboli produce signals of greater intensity and duration. Practical patient monitoring will require automatic emboli detectors incorporated into the Doppler machine; such programs are being developed.
Detection of solid emboli using Doppler techniques offers an exciting new diagnostic tool. It has been demonstrated that the technique can detect solid emboli. The prognostic significance of such emboli remains to be determined. It is hoped that the technique will allow detection of patients at high risk of embolic stroke in whom appropriate prophylactic treatment can then be instituted.
- Copyright © 1993 by American Heart Association