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Metab Brain Dis. 2004 Dec;19(3-4):431-45.

Changes in brain size in hepatic encephalopathy: a coregistered MRI study.

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Robert Steiner MR Unit, Imaging Sciences Department, MRC Clinical Sciences Centre, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) coregistration techniques can be used to track changes in brain volume. We aimed to determine whether treatment in chronic liver disease altered brain size. The study group comprised nine patients with cirrhosis (7 Child's grade B and 2 Child's grade C). Six had minimal and three had overt hepatic encephalopathy on clinical, psychometric, and electrophysiological testing. Cerebral MRI was performed in seven patients before and 6 weeks after starting lactulose. A further two patients underwent transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic stent shunting with MRI performed before and 24 h afterwards. One patient had a further scan 3 months after TIPSS. Brain size was measured using a semiautomated contour/thresholding technique. Measurable changes were found after treatment intervention, but there was no correlation with severity of encephalopathy (West Haven criteria) or liver dysfunction (Child's score). Three patients improved on lactulose, the brain size decreased with an increase in ventricular volume. Two patients deteriorated; the brain size increased with a concomitant decrease in ventricular volume. Two stable patients had small changes, one with an increase in brain size and a decrease in ventricular volume and the other showing the converse. Following TIPSS, there was an increase in brain size in both patients, evident within 24 h in one patient and at 3 months in the other. Coregistered MRI demonstrates easily detectable changes in brain size following treatment intervention. Our results support the hypothesis that low-grade brain swelling is present, even in minimal hepatic encephalopathy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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