Spontaneous fluctuations in BP (blood pressure) and subsequent change in CBFV (cerebral blood flow velocity) in the MCA (middle cerebral artery) can be used to assess dynamic cerebral autoregulation using transfer function analysis; however, the reliability of this technique has not been assessed, in particular the contribution of intra-subject variability relative to inter-subject variability. Three bilateral CBFV, BP and RR interval recordings were performed in ten healthy volunteers on four separate occasions over a 2-week period. Data were analysed to provide the ARI (autoregulatory index), CBFV, RAP (resistance-area product) and CrCP (critical closing pressure). We also measured systolic and diastolic BP, and resting HR (heart rate). We calculated the SEM (standard error of measurement) and the ICC (intra-class correlation coefficient) and their 95% CIs (confidence intervals) for each parameter to assess their absolute (intra-subject) and relative (inter-subject) reliability. The CV (coefficient of variation) of SEM ranged from 1.7% (for CBFV) to 100.0% (for RAP), whereas the ICC was <0.5 for ARI, rising to >0.8 for CBFV and diastolic BP. These data demonstrate excellent absolute and relative reliability of CBFV, whereas ARI is of comparable reliability with the measurement of HR. Using these results it is possible to determine the sample size required to demonstrate a change in ARI, with a sample of 45 subjects in each group required to show a change in ARI of 1, whereas to detect a change in ARI >2 would require only 11 subjects per group. The results of the present study could be valuable to the future planning of cerebral autoregulation studies, but more work is needed to understand the determinants of intra-subject variability in autoregulatory parameters.

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