Liver function, cerebral blood flow autoregulation, and hepatic encephalopathy in fulminant hepatic failure



In acute liver failure, massive hepatic necrosis may result in impaired regulation of cerebral blood flow (CBF), development of encephalopathy, and cerebral edema. In 10 consecutive patients with fulminant hepatic failure (FHF), CBF autoregulation was found to be absent, as transcranial Doppler mean flow velocity (Vmean) in the middle cerebral artery increased from 49 (27-59) to 69 (49-92) cm/s (P < .05) during a 30- (28-34) mm Hg rise in mean arterial pressure (MAP). In 7 patients, restoration of CBF autoregulation was shown within 48 (24-120) hours after spontaneous hepatic recovery or liver transplantation, before complete alleviation of hepatic encephalopathy (HE). The extraordinarily rapid restoration of CBF autoregulation in patients with FHF following re-establishment of liver function is unique compared with other conditions affecting the CBF autoregulation, indicating a close connection between liver function and regulation of cerebral circulation. Because CBF autoregulation was restored after initial alleviation of HE, it does not appear to be of major pathophysiological importance in the mediation of HE.