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Abstract

Clinical and histopathological findings hint at regional differences in the brain's sensitivity to metabolic changes in cirrhosis. The aim of the present study was to examine regional differences in cerebral ammonia metabolism in patients with cirrhosis and grade 0-to-I hepatic encephalopathy (HE). 13N-ammonia, 15O-water positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) were performed. Quantitative values of cerebral blood flow (CBF) and the initial cerebral ammonia uptake rate (K1) were derived for several regions of interest from images of the desired parameters after interactive coregistration with the patients' MRI-studies. CBF (mL/mL/min), K1 (mL/mL/min), and the ammonia extraction fraction (K1/CBF) showed marked regional variance with the highest levels in the thalamus, the lenticular nucleus, and the cerebellum. In conclusion, the regional differences in cerebral ammonia uptake correspond to the distribution of histopathological changes in the brain of patients with cirrhosis as well as clinical features of HE, characterized by signs of basal ganglia and cerebellar dysfunction with corresponding signs of functional impairment, especially of the frontal cortex and cingulate gyrus. (HEPATOLOGY 2004;40:73–79.)