Brain lesions in septic shock: a magnetic resonance imaging study

Intensive Care Med. 2007 May;33(5):798-806. doi: 10.1007/s00134-007-0598-y. Epub 2007 Mar 22.


Background: Understanding of sepsis-induced brain dysfunction remains poor, and relies mainly on data from animals or post-mortem studies in patients. The current study provided findings from magnetic resonance imaging of the brain in septic shock.

Methods: Nine patients with septic shock and brain dysfunction [7 women, median age 63 years (interquartile range 61-79 years), SAPS II: 48 (44-56), SOFA: 8 (6-10)] underwent brain magnetic resonance imaging including gradient echo T1-weighted, fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR), T2-weighted and diffusion isotropic images, and mapping of apparent diffusion coefficient.

Results: Brain imaging was normal in two patients, showed multiple ischaemic strokes in two patients, and in the remaining patients showed white matter lesions at the level of the centrum semiovale, predominating around Virchow-Robin spaces, ranging from small multiple areas to diffuse lesions, and characterised by hyperintensity on FLAIR images. The main lesions were also characterised by reduced signal on diffusion isotropic images and increased apparent diffusion coefficient. The lesions of the white matter worsened with increasing duration of shock and were correlated with Glasgow Outcome Score.

Conclusion: This preliminary study showed that sepsis-induced brain lesions can be documented by magnetic resonance imaging. These lesions predominated in the white matter, suggesting increased blood-brain barrier permeability, and were associated with poor outcome.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood Glucose
  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Brain Diseases / diagnosis
  • Brain Diseases / etiology
  • Brain Diseases / pathology*
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Shock, Septic / complications
  • Shock, Septic / physiopathology*
  • Sodium / blood


  • Blood Glucose
  • Sodium