What is the role of cytotoxic edema in the pathogenesis of acute liver failure (ALF)?

Updated: Jun 13, 2019
  • Author: Gagan K Sood, MD; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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Cytotoxic edema is the consequence of impaired cellular osmoregulation in the brain, resulting in astrocyte edema. Cortical astrocyte swelling is the most common observation in neuropathologic studies of brain edema in acute liver failure.

In the brain, ammonia is detoxified to glutamine via amidation of glutamate by glutamine synthetase. The accumulation of glutamine in astrocytes results in astrocyte swelling and brain edema. There is clear evidence of increased brain concentration of glutamine in animal models of acute liver failure. The relationship between high ammonia and glutamine levels and raised ICH has been reported in humans.

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