Hepatic encephalopathy is a disorder that develops in the brain of some individuals as a result of liver disease. Reduced liver function can create disturbances in the central nervous system.
Hepatic encephalopathy is a serious condition that has effects that may range from subtle to life threatening. Patients with hepatic encephalopathy are often unable to care for themselves. In prominent cases of hepatic encephalopathy, an individual can become unconscious, unresponsive, comatose, or may even die. The majority of individuals who go into a coma as a result of hepatic encephalopathy will die.
The exact cause of hepatic encephalopathy is unknown. It may appear suddenly when liver damage occurs in individuals who had no previously known liver damage. More often, hepatic encephalopathy occurs in individuals with chronic liver disease and may be triggered by:
Some other conditions that resemble or hide hepatic encephalopathy are:
Symptoms of hepatic encephalopathy may be mild at first. They may begin slowly and gradually worsen, or they may stay the same.
Common symptoms include:
Severe symptoms include:
Doctors have many tests available to diagnose hepatic encephalopathy.
The presence of particular physical signs used in diagnosis may include:
Diagnostic tests may include complete blood count, liver function tests, ammonia level testing, manganese level testing, a complete metabolic panel test ( specifically sodium, potassium, BUN and creatinine) and imagining tests.
Hepatic encephalopathy may be considered a medical emergency, depending on the severity of the symptoms. Seek immediate medical attention if you or someone you know experiences any of the symptoms of hepatic encephalopathy. Hospitalization may be required.
Treatment will focus on the root cause of hepatic encephalopathy such as:
Acute hepatic encephalopathy may be treatable. Recovery and risks will vary from patient to patient. The best course of treatment is prevention. Some ways to help prevent liver disease and damage are to:
Hepatic encephalopathy is most often seen in people with chronic liver disease with the accumulation of toxins built up in the body if the liver is not working well. It can occur suddenly in individuals with no previous liver problems if damage to the liver occurs.