1 Department of Medicine, University of Montreal, 45143 Cabot Trail, Englishtown, NS, B0C 1H0, Canada. email@example.com.
Neuropathology of hepatic encephalopathy (HE) in cirrhosis is primarily astroglial in nature characterized by Alzheimer type 2 astrocytosis together with activation of microglia indicative of neuroinflammation. Focal loss of neurons may also occur in the basal ganglia, thalamus and cerebellum. Pathophysiology of HE in cirrhosis is multifactorial, involving brain accumulation of ammonia and manganese, systemic and central inflammation, nutritional/metabolic factors and activation of the GABAergic neurotransmitter system. Neuroimaging and spectroscopic techniques reveal early deactivation of the anterior cingulate cortex in parallel with neuropsychological impairment. T1-weighted MR signal hyperintensities in basal ganglia resulting from manganese lead to a novel entity, 'Parkinsonism in cirrhosis'. Elucidation of the pathophysiological mechanisms has resulted in novel therapeutic approaches to HE aimed at reduction of brain ammonia, reduction of systemic and central inflammation, and reduction of GABAergic tone via the discovery of antagonists of the neurosteroid-modulatory site on the GABA receptor complex.