Age is an important risk factor for perioperative cerebral complications such as stroke, postoperative cognitive dysfunction, and delirium. We explored the hypothesis that intraoperative cerebrovascular autoregulation is less efficient and brain tissue oxygenation lower in elderly patients, thus, increasing the vulnerability of elderly brains to systemic insults such as hypotension.
We monitored intraoperative cerebral perfusion in 50 patients aged 18–40 and 77 patients >65 yr at two Swiss university hospitals. Mean arterial pressure (MAP) was measured continuously using a plethysmographic method. An index of cerebrovascular autoregulation (Mx) was calculated based on changes in transcranial Doppler flow velocity due to changes in MAP. Cerebral oxygenation was assessed by the tissue oxygenation index (TOI) using near-infrared spectroscopy. End-tidal CO2, O2, and sevoflurane concentrations and peripheral oxygen saturation were recorded continuously. Standardized anaesthesia was administered in all patients (thiopental, sevoflurane, fentanyl, atracurium).
Autoregulation was less efficient in patients aged >65 yr [by 0.10 (se 0.04; P=0.020)] in a multivariable linear regression analysis. This difference was not attributable to differences in MAP, end-tidal CO2, or higher doses of sevoflurane. TOI was not significantly associated with age, sevoflurane dose, or Mx but increased with increasing flow velocity [by 0.09 (se 0.04; P=0.028)] and increasing MAP [by 0.11 (se 0.05; P=0.043)].
Our results do not support the hypothesis that older patients' brains are more vulnerable to systemic insults. The difference of autoregulation between the two groups was small and most likely clinically insignificant.