Saudi Journal of Gastroenterology
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Year : 2006  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 8-15

An evidence-based update on hepatic encephalopathy

Division of Gastroenterology, College of Medicine - King Saud University - Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Correspondence Address:
Ayman A Abdo
P.O.Box 2925(59), College of Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh 11461
Saudi Arabia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1319-3767.27738

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Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is a disturbance of the central nervous system (CNS) function secondary to porto-systemic shunting. It usually occurs in the setting of advanced liver cirrhosis or acute fulminant hepatic failure. An extensive Medline search was undertaken and all relevant papers found were critically examined. Special emphasis was paid to clinical trials and meta-analyses. All guidelines and conference proceedings related to hepatic encephalopathy were also examined. HE presents with a spectrum of neuropsychiatric manifestations that may be quite subtle (minimal HE) or overt, ranging from disturbance of the sleep pattern to deep hepatic coma. Most patients with HE may be diagnosed on clinical grounds only after excluding other causes of neurological disease, but a wide variety of neuropsychological, neurophysiological, and neuroradiological tests may be utilized. The first step in the management of patients with HE should be supportive care. Following that, a significant effort must be exerted to find and correct possible exacerbating factors which may include: renal impairment, infection, constipation, drugs, gastrointestinal bleeding and other factors. Medications used to treat patients with encephalopathy aim to reduce toxin production, increase toxin elimination, and protect the brain from the harmful effects of these toxins. A critical analysis of the evidence concerning most of the available management modalities is presented. Ultimately, all patients with HE must be considered for liver transplantation. It is concluded that early recognition, positive diagnosis, and a multi-target management plan constitutes appropriate management of patients with HE.

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