Cerebral blood flow measured by arterial-spin labeling MRI: A useful biomarker for characterization of minimal hepatic encephalopathy in patients with cirrhosis
ABSTRACT To investigate the role of arterial-spin labeling (ASL) MRI to non-invasively characterize the patterns of cerebral blood flow (CBF) changes in cirrhotic patients and to assess the potential of ASL MRI to characterize minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE).
This study was approved by the local ethics committee, and written informed consent was obtained from all participants. Thirty six cirrhosis patients without overt hepatic encephalopathy (16 MHE patients and 20 non hepatic encephalopathy (non-HE) patients) and 25 controls underwent ASL MRI, and CBF was measured for each subject. One-way ANOCOVA test with age and gender as covariences was used to compare CBF difference among three groups, and post hoc analysis was performed between each two groups. Region-based correlation analysis was applied between Child-Pugh score, venous blood ammonia level, neuropsychological tests and CBF values in cirrhosis patients. Receiver operator characteristic (ROC) analysis was used for assessing CBF measurements in ASL MRI to differentiate MHE from non-HE patients.
The gray matter CBF of MHE patients (71.09±11.88mLmin(-1)100g(-1)) was significantly higher than that of non-HE patients (55.28±12.30mLmin(-1)100g(-1), P<0.01) and controls (52.09±9.27mLmin(-1)100g(-1), P<0.001). Voxel-wise ANOCOVA results showed that CBFs were significantly different among three groups in multiple gray matter areas (P<0.05, Bonferroni corrected). Post hoc comparisons showed that CBF of these brain regions was increased in MHE patients compared with controls and non-HE patients (P<0.05, Bonferroni corrected). CBF of the right putamen was of the highest sensitivity (93.8%) and moderate specificity (75.0%) for characterization of MHE when using the cutoff value of 50.57mLmin(-1)100g(-1). CBFs in the bilateral median cingulate gyri, left supramarginal gyrus, right angular gyrus, right heschl gyrus and right superior temporal gyrus have both sensitivity and specificity of approximately 80% for the diagnosis of MHE.
Higher CBF was found in many brain regions in cirrhotic patients than controls and gradually increased with the progress of disease. CBF measured with ASL MRI can be a useful marker for differentiating MHE from non-HE patients.
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ABSTRACT: Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is a neuropsychiatric complication of cirrhosis or acute liver failure. Currently, HE is regarded as a continuous cognitive impairment ranging from the mildest stage, minimal HE to overt HE. Hyperammonaemia and neuroinflammation are two main underlying factors which contribute to the neurological alterations in HE. Both structural and functional impairments are found in the white mater and grey mater involved in HE. Although the investigations into HE pathophysiological mechanism are enormous, the exact pathophysiological causes underlying HE remain controversial. Multimodality magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) plays an important role in helping to understand the pathological process of HE. This paper reviews the up-to-date multimodality MRI methods and predominant findings in HE patients with a highlight of the increasingly important role of blood oxygen level dependent functional MRI.