Department of Clinical Medicine, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy. email@example.com.
Department of Gastroenterology, Santa Maria Goretti Hospital, Sapienza Polo Pontino, Latina, Italy.
Department of Clinical Medicine, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW:
Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is a neuropsychiatric syndrome that occurs in up to 30% of patients with cirrhosis. HE may be a consequence of pure liver failure, as in patients with fulminant hepatitis, or of the combination of liver failure and portal-systemic shunting, as in patients with liver cirrhosis. Episodes of HE are usually related to precipitating events, such as infections or gastrointestinal bleeding; a minority of cirrhotic patients experienced a chronic HE, refractory to standard medical treatment. The prevention of HE recurrence, after the first episode of HE, could be obtained by the administration of prophylactic therapy with lactulose, rifaximin or a combination of both. The aim of this review is to clarify some key points in the management of cirrhotic patients with HE, not responsive to first line treatment.
Recent studies investigated the role of fecal microbiota transplantation in the treatment of HE with promising results, but further investigations are needed. In a cirrhotic patient with acute cognitive impairment, the correct diagnosis of HE, after excluding other causes of neurological diseases, is mandatory for the correct management of the precipitating factors and for the treatment. In patients not responsive to standard treatment, the probable precipitating factors have not been correctly identified, multiple precipitating events are coexisting or a new precipitating event is superimposed. In some patients with recurrent HE, characterized by persistent alterations in neurological symptoms, without specific precipitants events, the presence of spontaneous or iatrogenic shunts should be investigated.