Pathophysiology, diagnosis, and management of hepatic encephalopathy
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Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is a common complication of cirrhosis of the liver. It is also extremely debilitating, with an untreated 3-year survival of only 23 %. While the exact pathophysiology of HE has yet to be elucidated, a number of contributing factors have been described. Abnormal levels and altered metabolism of ammonia play a central role. Recently, inflammation has also been identified as a contributor to HE. Improved understanding of the pathophysiology of HE is crucial, as current therapy centers on reduction of the body’s ammonia load. Lactulose is the first-line therapy for HE, with some antibiotics recently showing promise for improved outcomes in patients with HE. The role of anti-inflammatory therapies has yet to be evaluated.
KeywordsHepatic encephalopathy Ammonia Lactulose Antibiotics
The authors thank Dr Hector Baillie for reviewing the manuscript.
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