Increased peak end-expiratory pressure in ventilated preterm lambs changes cerebral microvascular perfusion: direct synchrotron microangiography assessment

Ishmael Miguel Inocencio, Nhi Thao Tran, Shinji Nakamura, Song J. Khor, Manon Wiersma, Katja Stoecker, Graeme R. Polglase, James T. Pearson, Flora Y. Wong

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) improves oxygenation in mechanically ventilated preterm neonates by preventing lung collapse. However, high PEEP may alter cerebral blood flow secondarily to the increased intrathoracic pressure, predisposing to brain injury. The precise effects of high PEEP on cerebral hemodynamics in the preterm brain are unknown. We aimed to assess the effect of PEEP on microvessels in the preterm brain by using synchrotron radiation (SR) microangiography, which enables in vivo real-time high-resolution imaging of the cerebral vasculature. Preterm lambs (0.8 gestation, n = 4) were delivered via caesarean section, anesthetized, and ventilated. SR microangiography of the right cerebral hemisphere was performed with iodine contrast administered into the right carotid artery during PEEP ventilation of 5 and 10 cmH2O. Carotid blood flow was measured using an ultrasonic flow probe placed around the left carotid artery. An increase of PEEP from 5 to 10 cmH2O increased the diameter of small cerebral vessels (<150 µm) but decreased the diameter of larger cerebral vessels (>500 µm) in all four lambs. Additionally, the higher PEEP increased the cerebral contrast transit time in three of the four lambs. Carotid blood flow increased in two lambs, which also had increased carbon dioxide levels during PEEP 10. Our results suggest that PEEP of 10 cmH2O alters the preterm cerebral hemodynamics, with prolonged cerebral blood flow transit and engorgement of small cerebral microvessels likely due to the increased intrathoracic pressure. These microvascular changes are generally not reflected in global assessment of cerebral blood flow or oxygenation.NEW & NOTEWORTHY An increase of positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) from 5 to 10 cmH2O increased the diameter of small cerebral vessels (<150 µm) but decreased the diameter of larger cerebral vessels (>500 µm). This suggests increased intrathoracic pressure due to high PEEP can drive microvessel engorgement in the preterm brain, which may play a role in cerebrovascular injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1075-1084
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • cerebral blood flow
  • preterm brain
  • synchrotron microangiography
  • ventilation

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