Department of Nuclear Medicine & PET Centre, Aarhus University Hospital, Noerrebrogade 44, DK-8000, Aarhus C, Denmark, email@example.com.
Ammonia is believed to play a key role in the development of hepatic encephalopathy (HE) with increased formation of glutamine playing a central role. It has been debated whether blood ammonia enters the brain by passive diffusion and/or active transport by ion-transporters and that changes in blood pH could affect the blood-to-brain transfer of ammonia. It has also been proposed that the permeability-surface area product for ammonia across the blood-brain barrier (PSBBB) should be increased in cirrhosis and HE. In the present paper it is argued that changes in blood pH does not alter PSBBB for ammonia and the question of passive diffusion versus active transport of ammonia remains unresolved. Furthermore, recent studies do not find evidence for increased PSBBB for ammonia in cirrhosis. The main determent for cerebral uptake of blood ammonia (i.e. flux) is the arterial blood ammonia concentration. This means that the only way to protect the brain from hyperammonemia is by lowering blood ammonia, inhibit cerebral uptake of ammonia, or by manipulating cerebral ammonia metabolism so that less glutamine is produced.