, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 31-41

Hypoglycemic brain injury

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Profound hypoglycemia causing the disappearance of spontaneous EEG activity was induced by insulin in rats. For analysis of cerebral cortical concentrations of labile phosphates, glycolytic metabolites and amino acids, the brain was frozen in situ. For microscopic analysis of the corresponding cerebral cortical areas the brain was fixed by perfusion. Hypoglycemia with an isoelectric EEG for 30 and 60 min caused severe perturbation of the cerebral energy metabolites. After both 30 and 60 min of isoelectric EEG, two microscopically different types of nerve cell injury were seen. Type I injury was characterized by angulated, darkly stained neurons with perineuronal vacuolation, mainly affecting small neurons in cortical layer 3. Type II injured neurons, mainly larger ones in layers 5–6, were slightly swollen with vacuolation or clearing (depending on the histotechnique used) of the peripheral cytoplasm, but had no nuclear changes.

Recovery was induced by glucose injection. Improvement in the cerebral energy state occurred during the 30 min recovery period even after 60 min of hypoglycemia. However, the persisting reduction in the size of adenine nucleotide and amino acid pools after 30 or 180 min recovery suggested that some cells remained damaged. In confirmation many type I injured neurons persisted during the recovery suggesting an irreversible injury. The disappearance of virtually all type II injuries indicated reversibility of these histopathological changes.

The microscopic changes in hypoglycemia were different from those in anoxia-ischemia suggesting a dissimilar pathogenesis in these states despite the common final pathway of energy failure.