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Research paper
Enhancing cerebral perfusion with external counterpulsation after ischaemic stroke: how long does it last?


Objective External counterpulsation (ECP) is a non-invasive method used to augment cerebral perfusion in ischaemic stroke. We aimed to investigate time-course effects on blood pressure elevation and cerebral blood flow augmentation induced by ECP in ischaemic stroke.

Methods Patients with acute unilateral ischaemic stroke and large artery occlusive disease were recruited to receive 35 daily 1 h ECP treatment sessions. Serial transcranial Doppler monitoring of bilateral middle cerebral arteries was performed on days 3, 5, 7, 10, 14, 21, 28 and 35 after stroke onset. Flow velocity changes before, during and after ECP and continuous beat-to-beat blood pressure data were recorded. The cerebral augmentation index (CAI) is the increase in the percentage of the middle cerebral artery mean flow velocity during ECP compared with baseline.

Results The CAI in patients with stroke was significantly higher on the ipsilateral side and on the contralateral side on day 3 (ipsilateral CAI, 9.3%; contralateral CAI, 7.2%), day 5 (7.0%; 6.7%), day 7 (6.8%; 6.0%), day 10 (6.0%; 5.1%), day 14 (4.7%; 2.6%) and day 21 (4.1%; 2.2%) after stroke onset than that in controls (−2.0%) (all p<0.05). There was a significant trend of decreasing CAI on the ipsilateral and contralateral sides over time after a stroke. Differences in the percentage increase in the mean blood pressure did not change significantly over time in patients with stroke.

Conclusions Blood pressure elevation persists throughout ECP treatment, which consists of 35 sessions. However, cerebral blood flow augmentation may last at least 3 weeks and then appears to return to baseline 1 month after acute stroke onset.


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