Many inner ear disorders may be caused by alterations in cochlear blood flow (CBF). However, each measurement technique used to monitor CBF has limitations in examining the relationship between otopathologic states and blood flow. This study investigates laser Doppler flowmetry (LDF) and its fundamental drawback: the unknown relationship of LDF output to actual CBF. LDF readings are directly compared with concurrent intravital microscopy (IVM) measures of erythrocyte velocity in the lateral wall of the guinea pig cochlea. Positive end expiratory pressure, spontaneous respiration of 5% and 10% carbon dioxide, phenylephrine, and direct electrical stimulation of the cochlea were used to manipulate CBF. High, positive correlations were found between simultaneous LDF and IVM measurements of CBF. In addition, the study demonstrated that current microdissection techniques used to perform IVM do not cause changes in CBF. IVM measurements of CBF are a more sensitive indicator of CBF changes than are LDF measures. Despite the high correlation between measurement techniques within a single manipulation, simultaneous LDF and IVM measurements differed between manipulation. This may reflect regional changes in CBF affected by these manipulations and differences in the sampled vascular beds contributing to these two measures. It is unlikely that a single calibration factor can be defined that would allow the conversion of LDF output to actual units of blood flow across different manipulations used to alter CBF.
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