Hepatic myelopathy (HM) is a rare complication of chronic liver diseases usually associated with a portosystemic shunt, causing a progressive spastic paraparesis, and is likely to be overlooked. Thirteen patients with liver cirrhosis associated with surgical or spontaneous portosystemic shunts were studied to determine the frequency and gravity of HM. Six patients exhibited clear-cut signs of spinal cord involvement and four of them exhibited varying degrees of disability.Neurological examination did not reveal any abnormalities in the other patients. Motor evoked potentials (MEPs) were measured in all patients; in five of them the examinations were done before and after orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT). The patients with clinical signs of spinal cord involvement exhibited severe neurophysiological abnormalities, whereas milder but unequivocal MEP abnormalities were found in four of the seven patients with normal clinical examination. The clinical and neurophysiological features of patients with slight MEP abnormalities improved after OLT, whereas the patients with a more advanced stage of disease (severe MEPs abnormalities) did not. Our findings indicate that MEP studies may disclose an impairment of the corticospinal pathways even before HM is clinically manifest and provide evidence that early diagnosis of HM and subsequent immediate liver transplantation have to be recommended.
Useful keywords (using NLM MeSH Indexing)
Evoked Potentials, Motor/physiology*
Portasystemic Shunt, Surgical/methods*
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation/methods
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