Biological differences between ischemia, hypoglycemia, and epilepsy

Ann Neurol. 1988 Dec;24(6):699-707. doi: 10.1002/ana.410240602.


Ischemia, hypoglycemia, and epilepsy have long been thought to produce similar or identical brain damage. Furthermore, these insults have been assumed to be additive in their damaging effects. These notions have been based on neuropathological observations in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex, and on the tenet that energy failure (ischemia, hypoglycemia) and increased demand for energy (epilepsy) similarly give rise to selective neuronal necrosis. Recently, other bases for considering these three insults identical have grown out of observations that loss of calcium homeostasis is common to all and that an excitotoxic mechanism of selective neuronal necrosis exists in all three conditions. Fundamental differences between ischemia, hypoglycemia, and epilepsy include the underlying neurochemical changes induced, the neuronal revival times, the time course of neuronal death, the distribution of selective neuronal necrosis, and the likely excitotoxins released. Lactic acid accumulation, implicated in damage to the neuropil as well as to neuronal cell bodies, also occurs to different degrees and in different distributions in the three conditions. The degree and distribution of pannecrosis is thus also different in ischemia, hypoglycemia, and epilepsy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Ischemia / pathology*
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Epilepsy / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / pathology*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Status Epilepticus / pathology
  • Time Factors


  • Calcium