Department of Neurology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany; Integrated Research and Treatment Center Transplantation, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.
BACKGROUND & AIMS:
Extrapyramidal and cerebellar symptoms belong to the most prominent features of episodic hepatic encephalopathy, and usually decrease upon ammonia-lowering therapy. Rapidly progressing parkinsonian symptoms, which are unresponsive to treatment of hepatic encephalopathy, indicate cirrhosis-related parkinsonism. This study aims to analyze the prevalence of cirrhosis-related parkinsonism. in patients with liver cirrhosis, and to study the functional status of the striatal dopaminergic system in these patients.
214 patients with liver cirrhosis who were consecutively seen at the out-patient clinic for liver transplant candidates and/or at the transplantation wards at Hannover Medical School between August 1, 2008 and March 31, 2011 underwent a standardized neurological examination while on the waiting list or immediately after liver transplantation. Single photon emission computer tomography (SPECT) using (123)I-beta-CIT for the evaluation of the striatatal dopamine transporter function, and (123)I-IBZM for the evaluation of the striatal dopamine D2 receptor availability was performed in 6 patients with cirrhosis-related parkinsonism. . RESULTS: Cirrhosis-related parkinsonism was diagnosed in 9 of the 214 patients (4.2%). SPECT revealed significantly decreased dopamine receptor availability in 5 of 6 patients studied, and significantly decreased dopamine transporter availability in 3. Levodopa improved motor dysfunction in two of four patients treated, although only temporarily. Incomplete recovery was observed in two patients after liver transplantation.
Cirrhosis-related parkinsonism is more frequent than presumed. The presented data suggest pre- and postsynaptic alteration of striatal dopaminergic neurotransmission as a possible cause of cirrhosis-related parkinsonism and reveal the limited effects of dopaminergic therapy.