We validated laser Doppler flowmetry (LDF) for long-term monitoring and detection of acute changes of local cerebral blood flow (1CBF) in chronically instrumented fetal sheep. Using LDF, we estimated developmental changes of cerebral autoregulation. Single fibre laser probes (0.4 mm in diameter) were implanted in and surface probes were placed on the parietal cerebral cortex at 105 ± 2 (n = 7) and 120 ± 2 days gestational age (dGA, n = 7). Basal 1CBF was monitored over 5 days followed by a hypercapnic challenge (fetal arterial partial pressure of CO2, Pa,CO2: 83 ± 3 mmHg) duringwhich 1CBF changes obtained by LDF were compared to those obtained with coloured microspheres (CMSs). Mean arterial blood pressure (MABP) was increased and decreased using phenylephrine and sodium nitroprusside at 110 ± 2 and 128 ± 2 dGA. Intracortical and cortical surface laser probes gave stable measurements over 5 days. The 1CBF increase during hypercapnia obtained by LDF correlated well with flows obtained using CMS (r = 0.89, P < 0.01). The signals of intracortical and surface laser probes also correlated well (r = 0.9 1, P < 0.01). Gliosis of 0.35 ± 0.06 mm around the tip of intracortical probes did not affect the measurements. The range of MABP over which cerebral autoregulation was observed increased from 20-48 mmHg at 110 dGA to 35 to > 95 mmHg at 128 dGA (P < 0.05). Since MABP increased from 33 to 54 mmHg over this period (P < 0.01), the range between the lower limit of cerebral autoregulation and the MABP increased from 13 mmHg at 110 dGA to 19 mmHg at 128 dGA (P < 0.01). LDF is a reliable tool to assess dynamic changes in cerebral perfusion continuously in fetal sheep.
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