BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: In patients with severe bacterial meningitis, norepinephrine is often infused to increase mean arterial pressure (MAP). This increases cerebral blood flow (CBF), but it is unknown if this increase is caused by impaired cerebral autoregulation or by a cerebral effect of norepinephrine through increased cerebral metabolism. The latter possibility implies a CBF-metabolism coupling. This has not been studied during meningitis. We studied the effect of norepinephrine and propofol on CBF and oxidative metabolism in patients with severe bacterial meningitis.

METHODS: In seven patients with pneumococcal meningitis and 7 healthy subjects, norepinephrine was infused intravenously; patients also underwent intravenous propofol infusion. Global CBF was measured by the Kety-Schmidt technique; cerebral oxidative metabolism and net flux of norepinephrine and epinephrine were calculated from measured arterial-to-jugular venous concentration differences (a-vD).

RESULTS: During norepinephrine infusion, MAP increased from a median value of 79 (range, 70 to 89) to 99 (98 to 129) mm Hg in patients, and from 87 (72 to 103) to 123 (112 to 132) mm Hg in controls. CBF increased in patients (51 [48 to 60] to 59 [54 to 77] mL/100 g per minute) but remained unchanged in controls. The cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen (CMRO2) decreased in patients and remained unchanged in controls. No cerebral net flux of norepinephrine or epinephrine was found at any time in the 2 groups. During propofol infusion, CMRO2, and the a-vDO2 decreased whereas CBF was unchanged.

CONCLUSIONS: In patients with severe bacterial meningitis, norepinephrine increases both MAP and CBF but not CMRO2, indicating impaired autoregulation. Propofol reduces CBF relatively less than cerebral metabolism, suggesting a resetting of the CBF-CMRO(2) relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1333-9
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure/drug effects
  • Cerebral Cortex/blood supply
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation/drug effects
  • Epinephrine/blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Meningitis, Bacterial/drug therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Norepinephrine/administration & dosage
  • Propofol/administration & dosage


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