Open Access Research article

Transcranial Doppler to assess sepsis-associated encephalopathy in critically ill patients

Charalampos Pierrakos1*, Rachid Attou1, Laurence Decorte2, Athanasios Kolyviras1, Stefano Malinverni1, Philippe Gottignies1, Jacques Devriendt1 and David De Bels1

Author Affiliations

1 Departments of Intensive Care, Brugmann University Hospital, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Place Van Gehuchten 4, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium

2 Departments of Geriatrics, Brugmann University Hospital, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Belgium

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BMC Anesthesiology 2014, 14:45  doi:10.1186/1471-2253-14-45

Published: 11 June 2014



Transcranial Doppler can detect cerebral perfusion alteration in septic patients. We correlate static Transcranial Doppler findings with clinical signs of sepsis-associated encephalopathy.


Forty septic patients were examined with Transcranial Doppler on the first and third day of sepsis diagnosis. The pulsatility index (PI) and cerebral blood flow index (CBFi) were calculated by blood velocity in the middle cerebral artery (cm/sec). Patients underwent a daily cognitive assessment with the Confusion Assessment Method for the Intensive Care Unit (CAM-ICU) test.


Twenty-one patients (55%) were found to present confusion. The majority of the patients presented a PI > 1.1 (76%). PI on the first day (but not the third day) could predict a positive CAM-ICU test in septic patients (PI cut-off: 1.3, AUC: 0.905, p < 0.01, sensitivity: 95%, specificity: 88%, AUC: 0.618, p = 0.24). Multivariable analysis showed that PI on the first day is related to a positive CAM-ICU test independent of age and APACHE II score (OR: 5.6, 95% CI: 1.1-29, p = 0.03). A decrease of the PI on the third day was observed in the group that presented initially high PI (>1.3) (2.2 ± 0.71 vs. 1.81 ± 0.64; p = 0.02). On the other hand, an increase in PI was observed in the other patients (1.01 ± 0.15 vs. 1.58 ± 0.57; p < 0.01). On only the first day, the mean blood velocity in the middle cerebral artery and CBFi were found to be lower in those patients with a high initial PI (36 ± 21 vs. 62 ± 28 cm/sec; p < 0.01, 328 ± 101 vs. 581 ± 108; p < 0.01, respectively).


Cerebral perfusion disturbance observed with Transcranial Doppler could explain clinical symptoms of sepsis-associated encephalopathy.