Effect of Body Temperature on Brain Edema and Encephalopathy in the Rat After Hepatic Devascularization

Peter Traber, Mauro DalCanto, Daniel Ganger, Andres T. Blei*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Brain edema is a fatal complication of fulminant hepatic failure and its pathogenesis remains unclear. To determine its presence in a model of ischemic hepatic failure, rats were subjected to a portacaval anastomosis followed by hepatic artery ligation. Brain water was measured using the sensitive gravimetric method. Preliminary studies revealed marked hypothermia in devascularized animals kept at room temperature (26.9° ± 2.8°C). An additional group of devascularized rats was kept in an incubator. As expected for hypothermia, such animals had a lower arterial pressure and heart rate; the duration of encephalopathy was markedly prolonged. Water content of the cortical gray matter was only increased in normothermic devascularized rats: 80.14% ± 0.31%, normal; 80.06% ± 0.22%, portacaval shunt only; 80.42% ± 0.26%, devascularized at room temperature; 81.29% ± 0.38%, devascularized at controlled temperature (p < 0.001). Such differences could not be detected using the dry-weight technique in whole cerebral hemispheres. Astrocyte changes in the cortical gray matter were noted in both edematous and nonedematous devascularized groups, coupled with the presence of vesicles containing horseradish peroxidase in the endothelial capillary cell. This suggests that in this model, brain edema may be due to both a cytotoxic mechanism and changes in the permeability of the blood-brain barrier. Future studies with this widely used model will require strict control of temperature to allow interpretation of experimental results. A therapeutic role for hypothermia in the management of brain edema deserves further attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)885-891
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989


  • BBB
  • FHF
  • blood-brain barrier
  • fulminant hepatic failure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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