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Manual Carotid Compression is a Viable Alternative for Reduction of Cerebral Microemboli



Stroke is a devastating complication of cardiovascular surgeries, and the risk is particularly high for those requiring cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB). Embolic particles generated during the unclamping of the aortic cross-clamp may enter the cerebral circulation, lodging in small vessels. External manual compression of the carotid arteries is a non-invasive technique that has been proposed for cerebral protection during CPB procedures but is not widely deployed.


The aim of this study is to assess the potential for cerebral emboli reduction with carotid compression using an in vitro model. Experiments were performed with a glass aortic arch model in a mock cardiovascular circuit. Small fluorescent particles were released into the circulation with and without carotid compression, and the particles visualized in the aortic midplane. The number of particles in the aorta and arch branch vessels were counted from the images before, during and following the release of carotid compression for durations of 10, 15 and 20 s. A gamma variate function was fit to the data to describe the bolus dynamics.


Carotid compression for 10 s reduces the number of embolic articles entering the carotid arteries by over 75%. A compression duration of 15–20 s does not result in greater particle reduction than one of 10 s.


Brief compression of the common carotid arteries during cardiovascular interventions has the potential to dramatically reduce the number of cerebral emboli and should be investigated further.

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The work was performed in the Cardiovascular Bioengineering Laboratory at San Diego State University with internal funding sources. There are no conflicts of interest to disclose.

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Correspondence to Karen May-Newman.

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Isingoma, P., Moon, J. & May-Newman, K. Manual Carotid Compression is a Viable Alternative for Reduction of Cerebral Microemboli. Cardiovasc Eng Tech 12, 353–360 (2021).

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  • Stroke
  • Emboli
  • Carotid compression
  • CPB