Evidence for peri-ictal blood-brain barrier dysfunction in patients with epilepsy

Theodor Rüber, Bastian David, Guido Lüchters, Robert D. Nass, Alon Friedman, Rainer Surges, Tony Stöcker, Bernd Weber, Ralf Deichmann, Gottfried Schlaug, Elke Hattingen, Christian E. Elger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Epilepsy has been associated with a dysfunction of the blood-brain barrier. While there is ample evidence that a dysfunction of the blood-brain barrier contributes to epileptogenesis, blood-brain barrier dysfunction as a consequence of single epileptic seizures has not been systematically investigated. We hypothesized that blood-brain barrier dysfunction is temporally and anatomically associated with epileptic seizures in patients and used a newly-established quantitative MRI protocol to test our hypothesis. Twenty-three patients with epilepsy undergoing inpatient monitoring as part of their presurgical evaluation were included in this study (10 females, mean age ± standard deviation: 28.78 ± 8.45). For each patient, we acquired quantitative T 1 relaxation time maps (qT1) after both ictal and interictal injection of gadolinium-based contrast agent. The postictal enhancement of contrast agent was quantified by subtracting postictal qT1 from interictal qT1 and the resulting Î "qT1 was used as a surrogate imaging marker of peri-ictal blood-brain barrier dysfunction. Additionally, the serum concentrations of MMP9 and S100, both considered biomarkers of blood-brain barrier dysfunction, were assessed in serum samples obtained prior to and after the index seizure. Fifteen patients exhibited secondarily generalized tonic-clonic seizures and eight patients exhibited focal seizures at ictal injection of contrast agent. By comparing Î "qT1 of the generalized tonic-clonic seizures and focal seizures groups, the anatomical association between ictal epileptic activity and postictal enhancement of contrast agent could be probed. The generalized tonic-clonic seizures group showed significantly higher Î "qT1 in the whole brain as compared to the focal seizures group. Specific analysis of scans acquired later than 3 h after the onset of the seizure revealed higher Î "qT1 in the generalized tonic-clonic seizures group as compared to the focal seizures group, which was strictly lateralized to the hemisphere of seizure onset. Both MMP9 and S100 showed a significantly increased postictal concentration. The current study provides evidence for the occurrence of a blood-brain barrier dysfunction, which is temporally and anatomically associated with epileptic seizures. qT1 after ictal contrast agent injection is rendered as valuable imaging marker of seizure-associated blood-brain barrier dysfunction and may be measured hours after the seizure. The observation of the strong anatomical association of peri-ictal blood-brain barrier dysfunction may spark the development of new functional imaging modalities for the post hoc visualization of brain areas affected by the seizure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2952-2965
Number of pages14
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • blood-brain barrier
  • epilepsy
  • quantitative MRI
  • seizures
  • serum markers


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