Gilles P. Layrargues, Christopher Rose, Laurent Spahr, Joseph Zayed, Louise Normandin, Roger F. Butterworth.
Amongst the potential neurotoxins implicated in the pathogenesis of hepatic encephalopathy, manganese emerges as a new candidate. In patients with chronic liver diseases, manganese accumulates in blood and brain leading to pallidal signal hyperintensity on T1-weighted Magnetic Resonance (MR) Imaging. Direct measurements in globus pallidus obtained at autopsy from cirrhotic patients who died in hepatic coma reveal 2 to 7-fold increases of manganese concentration. The intensity of pallidal MR images correlates with blood manganese and with the presence of extrapyramidal symptoms occurring in a majority of cirrhotic patients. Liver transplantation results in normalization of pallidal MR signals and disappearance of extrapyramidal symptoms whereas transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunting induces an increase in pallidal hyperintensity with a concomitant deterioration of neurological dysfunction. These findings suggest that the toxic effects of manganese contribute to extrapyramidal symptoms in patients with chronic liver disease. The mechanisms of manganese neurotoxicity are still speculative, but there is evidence to suggest that manganese deposition in the pallidum may lead to dopaminergic dysfunction. Future studies should be aimed at evaluating the effects of manganese chelation and/or of treatment of the dopaminergic deficit on neurological symptomatology in these patients.