INTRODUCTION: Acute hyperammonemic encephalopathy is associated with distinct brain MRI findings, namely, hyperintensity in T2-weighted sequences as well as restricted diffusion in diffusion-weighted imaging with accentuation in the insular cortex and cingulate gyrus. The pathophysiology and the histopathological correlates of these characteristic MRI findings are largely unknown.
CASE REPORT: We present a 57-year-old male with a history of chronic alcohol abuse, liver cirrhosis and portal hypertension, and a clinical syndrome (variceal bleeding, depression of consciousness, seizures), elevated plasma ammonia levels, and characteristic brain MRI abnormalities suggestive of acute hyperammonemic encephalopathy. A postmortem histopathological examination revealed extensive hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy without evidence for metabolic encephalopathy. No episodes of prolonged cerebral hypoxemia were documented throughout the course of the disease. We conducted a review of the literature, which exhibited no reports of hyperammonemic encephalopathy in association with characteristic brain MRI findings and a consecutive histopathological examination.
CONCLUSION: This is the first report of a patient with acute hyperammonemic encephalopathy together with characteristic brain MRI findings and a histopathological correlation. Although characteristic MRI findings of acute hyperammonemic encephalopathy were present, a histopathological examination revealed only hypoxic pathology without signs of metabolic encephalopathy.