Hypoglycemic brain injury: potentiation from respiratory depression and injury aggravation from hyperglycemic treatment overshoots

J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2000 Jan;20(1):82-92. doi: 10.1097/00004647-200001000-00012.


Hypoglycemia can cause brain dysfunction, brain injury, and death. The present study seeks to broaden current information regarding mechanisms of hypoglycemic brain injury by investigating a novel etiology. The cat's high resistance to brain injury from hypoglycemia suggested that additional influences such as respiratory depression might play a facilitating role. Three groups of cats were exposed to fasting and insulin-induced hypoglycemia (HG; n = 6), euglycemic respiratory depression (RD; n = 5), and combined hypoglycemic respiratory depression (HG/RD; n = 10). The HG animals were maintained at <1.5 mmol (mean 1 mmol) serum glucose concentration for 2 to 6.6 hours. The respiratory depression was associated with PaO2 and PaCO2 values of approximately 50 mm Hg for 1 hour and of approximately 35 and approximately 75 mm Hg, respectively, for the second hour. Magnetic resonance diffusion-weighted imaging estimated brain energy state before, during, and after hypoglycemia. The hypoglycemic respiratory depression exposures were terminated either to euglycemia (n = 4) or to hyperglycemia (n = 6). Brain injury was assessed after 5 to 7 days of survival. Cats exposed to hypoglycemia alone maintained unchanged diffusion coefficients; that is, they lacked evidence of brain energy failure and all six remained brain-intact. Only 1 of 5 euglycemic RD but 10 of 10 HG/RD cats developed brain damage (HG and RD vs. HG/RD, P < 0.01). This difference in brain injury rates suggests injury potentiation by hypoglycemia and respiratory depression acting together. Three injury patterns emerged, including activation of microglia, selective neuronal necrosis, and laminar cortical necrosis. Widespread activation of microglia suggesting damage to neuronal cell processes affected all damaged brains. Selective neuronal necrosis affecting the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, and basal ganglia was observed in all but one case. Instances of laminar cortical necrosis were limited to cats exposed to hypoglycemic respiratory depression treated with hyperglycemia. Thus, treatment with hyperglycemia compared with euglycemia after hypoglycemic respiratory depression exposures significantly increased the brain injury scores (24 +/- 6 vs. 13 +/- 2 points; P < 0.05). This new experimental hypoglycemia model's contribution lies in recognizing additional factors that critically define the occurrence of hypoglycemic brain injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Diseases / diagnosis
  • Brain Diseases / etiology*
  • Cats
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Hyperglycemia / complications
  • Hyperglycemia / diagnosis
  • Hyperglycemia / physiopathology*
  • Hypoglycemia / complications*
  • Hypoglycemia / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Respiration Disorders / complications
  • Respiration Disorders / diagnosis
  • Respiration Disorders / physiopathology*