Blood pressure regulation IX: cerebral autoregulation under blood pressure challenges

Authors: Tzeng YC, Ainslie PN.

Cerebral autoregulation (CA) is integral to the delicate process of maintaining stable cerebral perfusion and brain tissue oxygenation against changes in arterial blood pressure. The last four decades has seen dramatic advances in understanding CA physiology, and the role that CA might play in the causation and progression of disease processes that affect the cerebral circulation such as stroke. However, the translation of these basic scientific advances into clinical practice has been limited by the maintenance of old constructs and because there are persistent gaps in our understanding of how this vital vascular mechanism should be quantified. In this review, we re-evaluate relevant studies that challenge established paradigms about how the cerebral perfusion pressure and blood flow are related. In the context of blood pressure being a major haemodynamic challenge to the cerebral circulation, we conclude that: (1) the physiological properties of CA remain inconclusive, (2) many extant methods for CA characterisation are based on simplistic assumptions that can give rise to misleading interpretations, and (3) robust evaluation of CA requires thorough consideration not only of active vasomotor function, but also the unique properties of the intracranial environment.

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Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Jun 5.