Reduced cortical thickness in patients with acute-on-chronic liver failure due to non-alcoholic etiology

Santosh K. Yadav, Rakesh K. Gupta, Vivek A. Saraswat, Murali Rangan, Michael A. Thomas, Sergio Rutella, Silvio Danese, Ena Wang, Francesco M. Marincola, Mohammad Haris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) is a form of liver disease with high short-term mortality. ACLF offers considerable potential to affect the cortical areas by significant tissue injury due to loss of neurons and other supporting cells. We measured changes in cortical thickness and metabolites profile in ACLF patients following treatment, and compared it with those of age matched healthy volunteers. Methods: For the cortical thickness analysis we performed whole brain high resolution T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on 15 ACLF and 10 healthy volunteers at 3T clinical MR scanner. Proton MR Spectroscopy (1H MRS) was also performed to measure level of altered metabolites. Out of 15 ACLF patients 10 survived and underwent follow-up study after clinical recovery at 3 weeks. FreeSurfer program was used to quantify cortical thickness and LC- Model software was used to quantify absolute metabolites concentrations. Neuropsychological (NP) test was performed to assess the cognitive performance in follow-up ACLF patients compared to controls. Results: Significantly reduced cortical thicknesses in multiple brain sites, and significantly decreased N-acetyl aspartate (NAA), myo-inositol (mI) and significantly increased glutamate/glutamine (glx) metabolites were observed in ACLF compared to those of controls at baseline study. Follow-up patients showed significant recovery in cortical thickness and Glx level, while NAA and mI were partially recovered compared to baseline study. When compared to controls, follow-up patients still showed reduced cortical thickness and altered metabolites level. Follow-up patients had abnormal neuropsychological (NP) scores compared to controls. Conclusions: Neuronal loss as suggested by the reduced NAA, decreased cellular density due to increased cerebral hyperammonemia as supported by the increased glx level, and increased proinflammatory cytokines and free radicals may account for the reduced cortical thickness in ACLF patients. Presence of reduced cortical thickness, altered metabolites and abnormal NP test scores in post recovery subjects as compared to those of controls is associated with incomplete clinical recovery. The current imaging protocol can be easily implemented in clinical settings to evaluate and monitor brain tissue changes in patients with ACLF during the course of treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number322
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 6 2015


  • Acute-on-chronic liver failure
  • Cortical thickness
  • FreeSurfer
  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • Magnetic resonance imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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