Lessons on brain edema in HE: from cellular to animal models and clinical studies

Metab Brain Dis. 2023 Aug 22. doi: 10.1007/s11011-023-01269-5. Online ahead of print.


Brain edema is considered as a common feature associated with hepatic encephalopathy (HE). However, its central role as cause or consequence of HE and its implication in the development of the neurological alterations linked to HE are still under debate. It is now well accepted that type A and type C HE are biologically and clinically different, leading to different manifestations of brain edema. As a result, the findings on brain edema/swelling in type C HE are variable and sometimes controversial. In the light of the changing natural history of liver disease, better description of the clinical trajectory of cirrhosis and understanding of molecular mechanisms of HE, and the role of brain edema as a central component in the pathogenesis of HE is revisited in the current review. Furthermore, this review highlights the main techniques to measure brain edema and their advantages/disadvantages together with an in-depth description of the main ex-vivo/in-vivo findings using cell cultures, animal models and humans with HE. These findings are instrumental in elucidating the role of brain edema in HE and also in designing new multimodal studies by performing in-vivo combined with ex-vivo experiments for a better characterization of brain edema longitudinally and of its role in HE, especially in type C HE where water content changes are small.

Keywords: Astrocytes; Brain edema; Brain water content; Hepatic encephalopathy; In-vivo and ex-vivo measurements; Neurons; Swelling; Type A hepatic encephalopathy; Type C hepatic encephalopathy.

Publication types

  • Review