The effect of head positioning on cerebral hemodynamics: Experiences in mild ischemic stroke

Man Y. Lam*, Victoria J. Haunton, Mintu Nath, Ronney B. Panerai, Thompson G. Robinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background and purpose: It is generally agreed that optimal head positioning is an important consideration in acute stroke management regime. However, there is limited literature investigating the effect of head positioning changes on cerebrovascular physiology in acute ischemic stroke (AIS). We aim to assess cerebral autoregulation (CA) and associated hemodynamic responses during gradual head positioning (GHP) changes, between AIS and controls. Methods: Cerebral blood flow velocity (CBFV, transcranial Doppler), blood pressure (BP, Finometer) and end-tidal CO2 (capnography) were recorded between lying flat (0°) and sitting up (30°) head position, in 16 controls (8 women, mean age 57 ± 16 yrs) and 15 AIS patients (7 women, 69 ± 8 yrs). AIS patients carried out three visits at 13.3 ± 6.9 h, 4.8 ± 3.2 days and 93.9 ± 11.5 days from symptom onset, respectively. Results: AIS patients were significantly hypertensive (p = 0.005), hypocapnic (p < 0.001), and had lower CBFV (p = 0.02) compared to controls, in both head positions. When comparing 5-min FLAT to SIT head position, reductions in BP (both AIS and controls, p < 0.001) and CBFV (controls only: dominant hemisphere p = 0.001 and non-dominant hemisphere p = 0.05) were demonstrated. Of note, a reduction in autoregulation index was observed in AIS, after 5-min SIT head positioning, at all 3 visits (p = 0.018). Conclusion: Key hemodynamic changes were demonstrated when the head position changes from 5-min FLAT to SIT head position (GHP) in mildly affected stroke patients. Importantly, these were associated with non-significant changes in CBFV but reduced measures of CA following AIS, which may be relevant in determining the optimal head position and the ideal timing of mobilisation. Clinical Trial Registration – URL: Unique Identifier: NCT02932540

Original languageEnglish
Article number117201
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Neurological Sciences
Early online date21 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Sources of funding: This study received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
The authors thank the study participants for their time and effort devoted to this study.


  • Cerebral hemodynamic
  • Cerebral infarction
  • Head positioning
  • Ischemic stroke
  • Transcranial Doppler


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