Use of near-infrared spectroscopy to identify trends in regional cerebral oxygen saturation in horses


Correspondence email:;


Reasons for performing study

Alterations in cerebral haemodynamics may contribute to perianaesthetic complications in horses. Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) is frequently used intraoperatively in man to provide information regarding cerebral perfusion.


To determine whether NIRS can identify trends in regional cerebral oxygen saturation (rSO2) in horses and whether there is a correlation between rSO2 and venous oxygen tensions.


A cerebral oximeter sensor recorded rSO2 from the dorsal sagittal sinus of 6 healthy horses. Values for rSO2, arterial and venous oxygen and carbon dioxide tensions (PaO2, PvO2, PaCO2 and PvCO2 respectively), along with arteriovenous oxygen saturations (SavO2) were recorded in unsedated (recording period [RP] 1), sedated (RP2) and anaesthetised horses (RP3–5) and during recovery (RP6–8). During anaesthesia, horses were ventilated to achieve states of normo- (RP3), hyper- (RP4) and hypocapnoea (RP5). Data were evaluated descriptively and analysed using linear mixed-effects models and Pearson's correlation coefficient.


Overall mean ± s.d. values for rSO2, PaO2, PvO2, PaCO2, SavO2 and mean arterial pressure varied significantly by RP (P<0.001). Significant decreases in rSO2 were identified between RP1 and the post anaesthetic periods (P<0.001). No significant differences in rSO2 values were identified between RP1 and the intra-anaesthesia periods or between RP3, RP4 and RP5. Significant correlations were identified between rSO2 and PaO2 (r = 0.448, P<0.001), rSO2 and PvO2 (r = 0.512, P<0.001) and rSO2 and SavO2 (r = 0.469, P<0.001).


This is the first study to identify trends in rSO2 in horses using NIRS. A positive correlation was identified between rSO2 and PvO2, suggesting that alterations in cerebral oxygenation may be reflected in PvO2.

Potential relevance

Near-infrared spectroscopy may be used to monitor trends in rSO2 during equine anaesthesia. Decreasing rSO2 values may act as an early warning signal, alerting clinicians to potential cerebral desaturation events and indicating a need for intervention.