, Volume 61, Issue 6, pp 685–694 | Cite as

Microstructural brain abnormalities correlate with neurocognitive dysfunction in minimal hepatic encephalopathy: a diffusion kurtosis imaging study

  • Jing-Li Li
  • Heng Jiang
  • Xiao-Dong Zhang
  • Li-Xiang Huang
  • Shuang-Shuang Xie
  • Li Zhang
  • Yue ChengEmail author
  • Wen ShenEmail author
Functional Neuroradiology



To investigate the diffusion kurtosis imaging (DKI) in early minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE) diagnosis and evaluate the correlations between changes in DKI metrics and cognitive performance.


We enrolled 116 cirrhosis patients, divided into non-HE (n = 61) and MHE (n = 55), and 46 normal controls (NCs). All patients underwent cognitive testing before magnetic resonance imaging. DKI metrics were calculated through whole-brain voxel-based analysis (VBA) and differences between the groups were assessed. Pearson correlation between the DKI metrics and cognitive performance was analysed. The receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve was used to analyse the diagnostic efficiency of DKI metrics for MHE.


MHE patients had significantly altered DKI metrics in a wide range of regions; lower fractional anisotropy (FA) and higher mean diffusivity (MD) are mainly located in the corpus callosum, left temporal white matter (WM), and right medial frontal WM. Furthermore, significantly altered kurtosis metrics included lower mean kurtosis (MK) in the corpus callosum and left thalamus, lower radial kurtosis (RK) in the corpus callosum, and lower axial kurtosis (AK) in the right anterior thalamic radiation. Alterations in axial diffusivity (AD), radial diffusivity (RD), and MD were closely correlated with cognitive scores. The ROC curves indicated AD in the forceps minor had the highest predictive performance for MHE in the cirrhosis patients (area under curve = 0.801, sensitivity = 77.05%, specificity = 74.55%).


Altered DKI metrics indicate brain microstructure abnormalities in MHE patients, some of which may be used as neuroimaging markers for early MHE diagnosis.


Hepatic encephalopathy Brain microstructure Diffusion kurtosis imaging Voxel-based analysis 



Axial diffusivity


Axial kurtosis


Area under a curve


Diffusion kurtosis imaging


Fractional anisotropy


Hepatic encephalopathy


Mean diffusivity


Minimal HE


Mean kurtosis


Overt HE


Radial diffusivity


Radial kurtosis


Receiver operating characteristic


Voxel-based analysis



This study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81601482 to YC and No. 81701679 to XDZ).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in our studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the medical research committee and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants recruited in our study.

Supplementary material

234_2019_2201_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (225 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 224 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jing-Li Li
    • 1
  • Heng Jiang
    • 2
  • Xiao-Dong Zhang
    • 1
  • Li-Xiang Huang
    • 1
  • Shuang-Shuang Xie
    • 1
  • Li Zhang
    • 3
  • Yue Cheng
    • 1
    Email author
  • Wen Shen
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of RadiologyTianjin First Central HospitalTianjinChina
  2. 2.Department of OncologyWestern Theater Command Air Force Hospital of PLAChengduChina
  3. 3.Department of Transplantation SurgeryTianjin First Central HospitalTianjinChina

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