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Contrast-enhanced transcranial Doppler ultrasonography in the diagnosis of brain death
  1. Stefan Welschehold1,2,
  2. Florian Geisel1,
  3. Christian Beyer1,
  4. Andre Reuland1,2,
  5. Thomas Kerz1
  1. 1Department of Neurosurgery, University Medical Centre, Johannes-Gutenberg-University Mainz, Mainz, Germany
  2. 2Department of Neurotraumatology and Neurosurgery, Asklepios Hospital Weissenfels, Weissenfels, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Stefan Welschehold, Department of Neurosurgery, University Medical Centre, Johannes-Gutenberg-University Mainz, Langenbeckstr.1, Mainz 55131, Germany; welscheh{at}

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The diagnosis of brain death (BD) is based on clinical criteria including deep coma, brain stem areflexia and apnoea. Depending on different local guidelines, confirmatory technical tests are sometimes mandatory.1 Since the 1990s, transcranial Doppler sonography (TCD) has found its place in these circumstances and fulfils most of the criteria of an ‘ideal test’ in confirming BD. To confirm intracranial circulatory arrest (CA) with Doppler sonography, typical flow patterns must be recorded in bilateral intracranial and extracranial brain-supplying arteries.2 A completely absent intracranial flow signal is not a reliable sign to determine CA because this can be due to transmission problems. Inadequate ultrasound penetration of the temporal bone is a major drawback of this technique, making definitive assessment of intracranial flow patterns impossible. Stabilised microbubble ultrasonic contrast agents (UCA) are routinely used in neurological clinical routine when intracranial insonation is difficult. The application of UCAs may also be helpful during BD declaration, but to our knowledge, only one publication evaluated UCAs to detect intracranial CA in BD.3

Material and methods

Retrospective analysis of 102 patients (46 women, 56 men), aged between 8 years and 88 years (mean: 53 years±17 years), between January 2008 and December 2011, were examined by our department. Patients were found brain dead in clinical examination and were scheduled for …

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  • Contributors SW and FG designed this study, collected and analysed the data. SW, TK, AR and CB performed TCD examinations. SW wrote and TK reviewed the article.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Retrospective analysis. UCAs approved for diagnostic imaging in neurological patients.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.