1Department of Translational and Precision Medicine, "Sapienza" University of Rome, Rome, Italy.
Introduction: Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is a peculiar kind of brain dysfunction typical of liver cirrhosis characterized by nonspecific neurological and psychiatric manifestations. HE ranges from minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE) to the most severe form characterized by alteration of consciousness or coma (overt HE, OHE). Once the diagnosis of OHE is made, every effort to identify and correct the precipitating cause is essential for the resolution of symptoms. Clinical studies that assessed the prevalence and incidence of any type of HE (MHE and OHE) in patients affected by cirrhosis were included in this review. No language, publication date, or publication status restrictions were imposed. The studies were identified by searching electronic databases (PubMed and SCOPUS).
Areas covered: The most widely empirical pharmacological approach consists of non-absorbable antibiotics (rifaximin) and non-absorbable disaccharides (lactulose, lactitol per os and per enemas). Other agents (including branched-chain amino acids, probiotics, other antibiotics, or intravenous L-ornithine L-aspartate) are available, but the evidence supporting their efficacy remains under debate.
Expert opinion: Gray areas and future needs remain the therapeutic approach to MHE and issues in the design of therapeutic studies for HE which have been extensively discussed in this review.