Chronic acquired hepatic failure: MR imaging of the brain at 1.5 T

James A Brunberg, E. Kanal, W. Hirsch, D. H. Van Thiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


The results of MR imaging of the brain at 1.5 T in 42 adults with non-Wilsonian chronic hepatic failure are reported. T1-weighted images demonstrated increased signal in the globus pallidus in 30 patients and in the putamen in 21, while T2-weighted images demonstrated no corresponding alteration in signal intensity. Symmetric low intensity in the central portion of the globus pallidus on spin-density and T2-weighted images in two patients correlated with regions of calcification on CT scans. Increased intensity on T1-weighted images also occurred in the mesencephalon surrounding the red nucleus (17/42) and in the quadrigeminal plate (4/42). Three patients demonstrated increased intensity in the pons on T2-weighted images unassociated with clinical brainstem dysfunction. Increased intensity on T1-weighted images was seen in the anterior pituitary in 28 of 35 patients. Alterations in signal intensity were not demonstrated in the cerebral cortex or cerebellum. MR findings did not correlate with laboratory indices of hepatic or thyroid function, with histologic liver diagnosis, or with neurologic status at the time of MR evaluation. Increased signal intensity in the basal ganglia, pituitary gland, and mesencephalon surrounding the red nuclei is characteristic of chronic hepatocellular dysfunction. Deposition of an as yet unidentified paramagnetic substance or altered intracellular water relaxation associated with the proliferation of astrocyte cytoplasmic organelles is postulated as the likely mechanism for this previously undescribed MR manifestation of chronic acquired hepatic failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)909-914
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology


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