Asterixis and encephalopathy following metrizamide myelography: Investigations into possible mechanisms and review of the literature

John M. Bertoni, Robert Jay Schwartzman, Gage van Horn, James Partin

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Marked asterixis occurred in two patients following metrizamide myelography. One also suffered generalized seizures and the other had severe stuttering speech for seven days. The spectrum of toxic manifestations of metrizamide is reviewed with emphasis on the unusual lethargy and other depressive effects seen with this relatively safe agent. The hypothesis that metrizamide exerts a ouabain‐like effect on the cortical surface was tested. Metrizamide in concentrations as high as 20 mM had no inhibitory effect on rat cerebral K+‐para‐nitrophenylphosphatase, a partial reaction of (Na1 + K1)‐adenosine triphosphatase. Because metrizamide is a 2‐deoxyglucose analogue, a competitive inhibition of hexokinase at the first step in glycolysis was also postulated. Metrizamide was found to competitively inhibit commercial (microbial) hexokinase. The Michaelis constant for glucose rises from 0.13 to 0.25 to 0.33 to 0.91 mM in the presence of 0, 0.4, 1.0, and 2.0 mM metrizamide, respectively. Since the concentration of metrizamide over the cerebral cortex after routine myelography may be approximately 50 mM compared with a glucose concentration of only 3.6 mM (65 mg/dl), it is postulated that impaired brain glucose metabolism may be responsible for some of the toxic effects of metrizamide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)366-370
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of Neurology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1981


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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