Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Infectious Diseases, Jagiellonian University Medical College, Krakow, Poland.
Background Minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE) is the mildest form of hepatic encephalopathy (HE). For diagnostic purposes, 2 alternative batteries of psychometric screening tests are recommended. They differ from each other in terms of the cognitive domains assessed. The research was designed to provide a profile of cognitive functioning in patients with liver cirrhosis, using an assessment that covers a wider range of cognitive functions than the usual screening battery. Material and Methods We examined 138 persons, including 88 with liver cirrhosis and 50 healthy volunteers. The Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) was used for screening and excluding advanced cognitive impairment. Then, to assess cognitive functions in more detail, the following tests were used: Auditory Verbal Learning Test (AVLT), Letter and Semantic Fluency Tests (LF and SF), Trail Making Test (TMT A&B), Digit Symbol Test (DST), Block Design Test (BDT), and Mental Rotation Test (MRT). The MRT task has not been used in MHE diagnosis so far. Finally, 57 patients and 48 controls took part in the entire study. Results Patients with liver cirrhosis commit significantly more errors of intrusions in the AVLT during the delayed free recall trial. Results significantly deviating from the norm in at least 2 tests were found only in 7 cirrhosis patients. Conclusions The results do not provide any specific profile of cognitive disturbances in MHE, but suggest that cirrhosis patients have a tendency to commit more memory errors, probably due to subtle impairments of executive function.