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Acta Neurol Taiwan. 2005 Sep;14(3):151-61.

[EEG manifestations in metabolic encephalopathy].

[Article in Chinese]

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Department of Neurology, National Cheng Kung University Hospital, Tainan, Taiwan.


Normal brain function depends on normal neuronal metabolism, which is closely related to systemic homeostasis of metabolites, such as glucose, electrolytes, amino acids and ammonia. "Metabolic encephalopathy" indicates diffuse brain dysfunction caused by various systemic derangements. Electroencephalogram (EEG) is widely used to evaluate metabolic encephalopathy since 1937, when Berger first observed slow brain activity induced by hypoglycemia. EEG is most useful in differentiating organic from psychiatric conditions, identifying epileptogenicity, and providing information about the degree of cortical or subcortical dysfunction. In metabolic encephalopathy, EEG evolution generally correlates well with the severity of encephalopathy. However, EEG has little specificity in differentiating etiologies in metabolic encephalopathy. For example, though triphasic waves are most frequently mentioned in hepatic encephalopathy, they can also be seen in uremic encephalopathy, or even in aged psychiatric patients treated with lithium. Spike-and-waves may appear in hyper- or hypo-glycemia, uremic encephalopathy, or vitamin deficiencies, etc. Common principles of EEG changes in metabolic encephalopathy are (1) varied degrees of slowing, (2) assorted mixtures of epileptic discharge, (3) high incidence of triphasic waves, and (4), as a rule, reversibility after treatment of underlying causes. There are some exceptions to the above descriptions in specific metabolic disorders and EEG manifestations are highly individualized.

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