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Nat Rev Neurol. 2013 Oct;9(10):551-61. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2013.177. Epub 2013 Sep 3.

Imaging in sepsis-associated encephalopathy--insights and opportunities.

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Division of Anaesthesia, Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QQ, UK.


Sepsis-associated encephalopathy (SAE) refers to a clinical spectrum of acute neurological dysfunction that arises in the context of sepsis. Although the pathophysiology of SAE is incompletely understood, it is thought to involve endothelial activation, blood-brain barrier leakage, inflammatory cell migration, and neuronal loss with neurotransmitter imbalance. SAE is associated with a high risk of mortality. Imaging studies using MRI and CT have demonstrated changes in the brains of patients with SAE that are also seen in disorders such as stroke. Next-generation imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance spectroscopy, diffusion tensor imaging and PET, as well as experimental imaging modalities, provide options for early identification of patients with SAE, and could aid in identification of pathophysiological processes that represent possible therapeutic targets. In this Review, we explore the recent literature on imaging in SAE, relating the findings of these studies to pathological data and experimental studies to obtain insights into the pathophysiology of sepsis-associated neurological dysfunction. Furthermore, we suggest how novel imaging technologies can be used for early-stage proof-of-concept and proof-of-mechanism translational studies, which may help to improve diagnosis in SAE.

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