Diffusion limited oxygen delivery following head injury.


OBJECTIVE: To use a range of techniques to explore diffusion limitation as a mechanism of cellular hypoxia in the setting of head injury. DESIGN: A prospective interventional study. SETTING: A specialist neurocritical care unit. PATIENTS: Thirteen patients within 7 days of closed head injury underwent imaging studies. Tissue for ultrastructural studies was obtained from a cohort of seven patients who required surgery. INTERVENTIONS: Cerebral tissue PO2 (PtO2) was obtained using a multiple-variable sensor, and images of oxygen extraction fraction (OEF), derived from positron emission tomography, were used to calculate cerebral venous PO2 (PvO2). These data were used to derive the PvO2-PtO2 gradient in a region of interest around the sensor, which provided a measure of the efficiency of microvascular oxygen delivery. Measurements were repeated after PaCO2 was reduced from 37 +/- 3 to 29 +/- 3 torr (4.9 +/- 0.4 to 3.9 +/- 0.4 kPa) to assess the ability of the microvasculature to increase oxygen unloading during hypocapnia-induced hypoperfusion. Pericontusional tissue was submitted to electron microscopy to illustrate the structural correlates of physiologic findings. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Tissue regions with hypoxic levels of PtO2 (