White matter abnormalities correlate with neurocognitive performance in patients with HBV-related cirrhosis

J Neurol Sci. 2012 Oct 15;321(1-2):65-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2012.07.056. Epub 2012 Aug 9.


Background: White matter (WM) abnormalities are common in cirrhotic patients and possibly contribute to hepatic encephalopathy (HE), a frequent neuropsychiatric complication of cirrhosis. However, little is known about these WM abnormalities and their relationship to neurocognitive deficits in patients with HBV-related cirrhosis.

Methods: Three-dimensional T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) scans were obtained from 67 patients with HBV-related cirrhosis and 40 controls. Voxel-based morphometry and voxel-based DTI were performed to detect macroscopic atrophy and damage to the microstructural integrity of the WM, respectively. Correlation analyses were performed to investigate the relationships between WM abnormalities and neurocognitive performances.

Results: Patients with cirrhosis exhibited significantly decreased WM volume and fractional anisotropy (FA) values, especially in the corpus callosum, thalamus, extra-nuclear area, sensorimotor area, fusiform gyrus, lingual gyrus, and frontal lobes. These abnormalities were more severe with increasing Child-Pugh stage, minimal HE, and previous overt HE. Changes in the corpus callosum, frontal lobe, sensorimotor area, internal capsule, and temporal-occipital lobes were correlated with poor neurocognitive performance. Also, the significantly decreased global WM volume and mean FA value were correlated with poor neurocognitive performances.

Conclusions: Diffuse WM abnormalities are common in patients with HBV-related cirrhosis. Advanced liver disease and episodes of HE are two factors associated with WM abnormalities. The correlation between poor neurocognitive performance and WM abnormalities suggests that WM abnormalities may be one of mechanisms underlying neurocognitive deficits in patients with HBV-related cirrhosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy / complications*
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Leukoencephalopathies / diagnosis
  • Leukoencephalopathies / etiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Statistics as Topic