Neurocritical Care

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 385–387 | Cite as

Metabolic Encephalopathy: Behind the Name

  • Eelco F. M. WijdicksEmail author
Neurocritical care through history


Metabolic encephalopathy may be the most common diagnosis in consultative acute neurology. The origin of this term is not generally known but can be traced back. The term replaced more commonly used designations such as organic or functional. The term metabolic encephalopathy was originally linked to organ dysfunction but subsequently became more imprecise. When it expanded to include a large number of diseases, it evolved to “metabolic neuronal dysfunction” and soon could not be distinguished from “quiet delirium” and other designations. This vignette summarizes why the terminology has confused more than clarified but also why it will likely stay in the neurologist’s vernacular.


Metabolism Encephalopathy Metabolic neuronal dysfunction Toxic Terminology Delirium 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mayo ClinicDepartment of NeurologyRochesterUSA

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