Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy of Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy After Cardiac Arrest

Background and Objectives

To correlate brain metabolites with clinical outcome using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) in patients undergoing targeted temperature management (TTM) after cardiac arrest and assess their relationships to MRI and EEG variables.


A prospective cohort of 50 patients was studied. The primary outcome was coma recovery to follow commands. Comparison of MRS measures in the posterior cingulate gyrus, parietal white matter, basal ganglia, and brainstem were also made to 25 normative controls.


Fourteen of 50 patients achieved coma recovery before hospital discharge. There was a significant decrease in total N-acetylaspartate (NAA/Cr) and an increase in lactate/creatine (Lac/Cr) in patients who did not recover, with changes most prominent in the posterior cingulate gyrus. Patients who recovered had decrease in NAA/Cr as compared to controls. NAA/Cr had a strong monotonic relationship with MRI cortical apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC); Lac level exponentially increased with decreasing ADC. EEG suppression/burst suppression was strongly associated with Lac elevation.


NAA and Lac changes are associated with clinical/MRI/EEG changes consistent with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and are most prominent in the posterior cingulate gyrus. NAA/Cr decrease observed in patients with good outcomes suggests mild HIE in patients asymptomatic at hospital discharge. The appearance of cortical Lac represents a deterioration of aerobic energy metabolism and is associated with EEG background suppression, synaptic transmission failure, and severe, potentially irreversible HIE.

Classification of Evidence

This study provides Class IV evidence that in patients undergoing TTM after cardiac arrest, brain MRS–determined decrease in total NAA/Cr and an increase in Lac/Cr are associated with an increased risk of not recovering.

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