Radiotracer imaging studies in hepatic encephalopathy: ISHEN practice guidelines

Liver Int. 2009 May;29(5):621-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1478-3231.2009.02008.x.


There is lack of consensus on radiotracer usage in hepatic encephalopathy (HE). We have focused our attention on three main areas: (i) radiotracer imaging in animal models of HE, (ii) methodological issues of radiotracer imaging in HE and (iii) radiotracer imaging studies on the pathophysiology and (new) therapies in HE. We suggest the following: 1. Positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography lend themselves to the study of animal models of HE, but the models that are suitable depend on the specific research question. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be a useful alternative technique. 2. Owing to the cost of the technique, there is a need for multicentre human PET studies to overcome the problem of underpowered small studies being undertaken in individual research centres. There should be a unified PET protocol with central, anonymised data analysis in one centre, using validated methodology, on behalf of all participating centres. Such studies would be useful for the assessment of early intervention in patients with subtle neuropsychiatric symptoms, or for clarification of the effect of liver transplantation on HE. 3. While radiotracer imaging modalities remain useful research tools for the study of pathogenesis and for the assessment of treatment effects, there is no consensus on the use of imaging in routine clinical practice for diagnosis and prognosis. The most promising objective tools appear to be magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and volumetric MRI, which can be performed in multiple centres without the difficulties that radiotracer imaging entail.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy / methods
  • Models, Biological
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • Rats


  • Ammonia