A noninvasive test is needed to assess the severity of encephalopathy during fulminant hepatic failure. This feasibility study was designed to compare a noninvasive test, brain lactate measurement by magnetic resonance spectroscopy, with intracranial pressure monitoring in a large animal model of fulminant hepatic failure. Five dogs received an intraventricular catheter for intracranial pressure measurement. Liver injury was induced by intravenous bolus of D-galactosamine. Brain lactate concentrations were determined by magnetic resonance spectroscopy for up to 48 hours after D- galactosamine administration (t = 0 hour). A dose of D-galactosamine exceeding 1.5 g/kg resulted in fulminant hepatic failure. Brain lactate levels increased to >10 mmol/L in the two dogs that developed severe intracranial hypertension of >50 mm Hg and sustained cerebral perfusion pressures of <40 mm Hg. Both dogs experienced brain death, 42 and 48 hours after the administration of D-galactosamine. Brain lactate concentrations determined by magnetic resonance spectroscopy were in agreement with brain tissue concentrations of lactate determined by high-performance liquid chromatography at necropsy. Plasma lactate concentrations were only mildly elevated (3.2 and 4.2 mmol/L) at the time of brain death. Elevated levels of brain lactate are associated with intracranial hypertension and poor neurological outcome during fulminant hepatic failure.
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