Department of Medicine -DIMED- and CIRMANMEC, University of Padova, Padova, Italy.
Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is a peculiar kind of brain dysfunction caused by liver insufficiency and/or portal-systemic shunting. It is related to gut-derived substances. It is a relevant cause of morbidity and hospitalisation for patients with cirrhosis. The prognosis of HE is important in terms of survival and re-hospitalisation. It is related to impaired quality of life, falls and poor driving; presents a relevant burden for caregivers and health services; and may negatively impact on patient's job and income. Proper diagnosis and classification are expected to improve HE management. Once diagnosed, the management and therapeutic options for HE are generally clear. The improvement of knowledge in recent years has also clarified which are the further aims of research in this field of medicine. Prophylaxis of overt HE should always be performed, and this is generally secondary prophylaxis. Primary prophylaxis should be done immediately after upper gastrointestinal bleeding. Great advances in the detection and treatment of mild forms of HE are expected to lead to further improvement in patient management.