Cerebral Autoregulation and COVID-19 (CA-COVID)

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    University of Athens
Updated on 25 March 2022


This study aims to assess cerebral autoregulation by near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) in patients with severe coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19). Results on COVID-19 participants will be compared with prior results of patients with septic shock and cardiac arrest, who participated in NCT03649633 and NCT02790788, respectively.


Background and Rationale:

Septic encephalopathy is a serious complication of sepsis / septic shock. In postmortem, human brain samples, two forms of neuraxonal injury have been described, namely, scattered ischemic lesions and diffuse injury. Prior evidence suggests that cerebral autoregulation is impaired in patients with septic shock, and this may render the central nervous system more vulnerable to direct ischemic damage, especially during episodes of hypotension. Recent observational data suggest that impaired cerebral autoregulation is associated with death within 3 months in patients with septic shock. Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) constitutes an established method of noninvasive assessment of cerebral autoregulation and also provides the capability of semiquantitative assessment of regional cerebral blood flow. Severe coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is characterized by hypoxemia due to pneumonia, thromboembolic events that often affect the cerebral and pulmonary vascular network, vasodilatory shock and multiorgan failure. Pathophysiological mechanisms have features in common with those of septic shock and include "cytokine storm", diffuse vascular endothelial involvement, microand macro-vascular thrombosis and dysregulation of micro-circulation and vascular tone. In the present study, the following 3 hypotheses will be tested: 1. Cerebral autoregulation is likely to be severely impaired or even abolished in patients with COVID-19 who require admission to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU). In addition, the correlation between the NIRS Tissue Oxygenation Index and the mean arterial pressure may be stronger in COVID-19 compared to septic shock and comparable to that determined after cardiac arrest. 2. Cerebral autoregulation is likely to be associated with known COVID-19 severity markers such as lymphopenia and elevated C-reactive protein (CRP), ferritin, delta dimers (D-dimers) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) 3. The early (ie on ICU days 1 and 3) absence of cerebral autoregulation is likely to be associated with residual neurological deficits.


NIRS monitoring will be performed for approximately 90 minutes at 2 mean blood pressure levels (MAP, i.e. 65-70 mmHg and 95-100 mmHg) within 12-48 hours and 60-84 hours after admission to the ICU for severe COVID-19 infection. Autoregulation will be assessed using Tissue Oxygenation Index values and mean arterial pressure (MAP) values in a regression analysis and will be considered sufficient if the relative Pearson correlation coefficient is less than 0.3 Cerebral blood flow will be assessed by blood flow index (BFI) determination after intravenous infusion of 5 mg indocyanine.

ICU Protocol: All COVID-19 patients participating in this study will be treated in a standardized manner that includes: An intermediate dose of Enoxaparin, e.g. 4000 units x 2 subcutaneously 2. Treatment with remdesivir and dexamethasone 3. Up to 2 broad-spectrum antibiotics to treat possibly co-existing bacterial respiratory tract infection 4. A conservative fluid management strategy 5. A protective ventilation strategy in a semirecumbent position 5. Anesthesia with Midazolam, Propofol and Remifentanil 7. Enteral nutrition that will start within 24 hours after admission to the ICU, 8. Permissive hyperglycemia (blood glucose 150-200 mg / dL).

Data Collection and Patient Monitoring:

Monitoring of patients during the first 10 days after inclusion in the study will include 1) Determination and recording of hemodynamic parameters and hemodynamic support, blood gases and arterial blood lactate at 9 p.m. 2) Blood sampling at 24-48, 72 hours and 7 days after inclusion in the study for determination of serum cytokines and 3) Daily recording of laboratory values, fluid balance and administration. The results of 2-4 daily determinations of blood glucose will be recorded and then the incidence of hyperglycemia (defined as blood glucose in excess of 200 mg) will be analyzed. Follow-up until day 60 after inclusion in the study will include organic failures and the number of days without mechanical ventilatory assistance. Finally, the length of stay in the ICU, the date of discharge from the hospital and the morbidity and complications throughout the patient's treatment until discharge from the hospital will be recorded.

Predefined comparisons: The severity of cerebral autoregulation disturbance in patients with COVID-19 will be compared with the cerebral autoregulation disturbance in 1) patients with septic shock (n = 32, NCT03649633, www.clinicaltrials.gov) and 2) cardiac arrest (n = 30, NCT02790788, www.clinicaltrials.gov). Also, other -pre-specified -by the respective research protocols- patient monitoring variables will be compared between the aforementioned groups of patients.

Names / degrees of Associates:

Alexandros Kouvarakos, Physiotherapist; Eirini Patsaki, Physiotherapist; Sotirios Malachias, MD, PhD; Charikleia Vrettou, MD, PhD; Stylianos Kokkoris, MD, PhD; Prodromos Temperikidis, MD, PhD; Aggeliki Kannavou, MD, PhD; George Adamos, MD, PhD

Condition COVID-19 Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, COVID-19 Pneumonia
Treatment NIRS (near-infrared spectroscopy)
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04930874
SponsorUniversity of Athens
Last Modified on25 March 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Admission to ICU and endotracheal intubation/mechanical ventilation for severe COVID-19 infection

Exclusion Criteria

Age <18 years
Patients with a terminal underlying disease who are unlikely to survive until discharge from the hospital
Patients with acquired immunodeficiency and ("pre-COVID") lymphocyte Cluster Differentiation 4+ count <50 / μL
Patients with COVID-19 who have been transferred from another hospital
Patients with a history of allergic reaction
Use of prone position to facilitate mechanical ventilation
Absence of signed informed consent from a first degree relative
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