Clinical paper| Volume 126, P65-71, May 2018

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Long-term effects of brief hypoxia due to cardiac arrest: Hippocampal reductions and memory deficits



      To examine the effects of brief hypoxia (<7 min) due to cardiac arrest on the integrity of the brain and performance on memory and executive functions tasks.


      Patients after out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (CA) (n = 9), who were deemed neurologically intact on discharge, were compared to matched patients with myocardial infarction (MI) (n = 9). A battery of clinical and experimental memory and executive functions neuropsychological tests were administered and MRI scans for all patients were collected. Measures of subcortical and cortical volumes and cortical thickness were obtained using FreeSurfer. Manual segmentations of the hippocampus were also performed. APACHE-II scores were calculated based on metrics collected at admission to ICCU for all patients.


      Significant differences between the two groups were observed on several verbal memory tests. Both hippocampi were significantly reduced (p < 0.05) in the CA patients, relative to MI patients. Hippocampal subfields segmentation showed significantly reduced presubiculum volumes bilaterally. CA patients had on average 10% reduction in volumes bilaterally across hippocampal subfields. No cortical thickness differences survived correction. Significant correlations were observed in the CA group only between the hippocampal volumes and performance on verbal memory tasks, including recollection. Hippocampal volumes and several memory measures (but not other cognitive domains) were strongly correlated with APACHE-II scores on admission in the CA group, but not in the MI group


      Chronic patients with cardiac arrest who were discharged from hospital in “good neurological condition” showed an average of 10% reduction in hippocampal volume bilaterally and significant verbal memory deficits relative to matched controls with myocardial infarction, suggesting even brief hypoxic periods suffice to lead to specific hippocampal damage.


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