The burden of minimal hepatic encephalopathy: from diagnosis to therapeutic strategies

Authors Lorenzo Ridola, Vincenzo Cardinale, Oliviero Riggio.


Minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE) is the mildest form of hepatic encephalopathy (HE). It affects the performance of psychometric tests focused on attention, working memory, psychomotor speed, and visuospatial ability, as well as electrophysiological and other functional brain measures. MHE is a frequent complication of liver disease, affecting up to 80% of tested patients. By being related to falls, an impairment in fitness to drive and the development of overt HE, MHE severely affects the lives of patients and caregivers by altering their quality of life and their socioeconomic status. MHE is detected in clinically asymptomatic patients using appropriate psychometric tests and neurophysiological methods that highlight neuropsychological alterations, such as video-spatial orientation deficits, attention disorders, memory, reaction times, electroencephalogram slowing, prolongation of latencyevoked cognitive potentials, and reduction in the critical flicker frequency. Several treatments have been proposed for MHE treatment, including non-absorbable disaccharides, poorly absorbable antibiotics such as rifaximin, probiotics and branched-chain amino acids. However, because of the multiple diagnosis methods, the various endpoints of treatment trials and the variety of agents used in trials, the treatment of MHE is not currently recommended as routine, but only on a case-by-case basis.

Keywords Cirrhosis, minimal hepatic encephalopathy, covert hepatic encephalopathy, cognitive impairment

Ann Gastroenterol 2018; 31 (2): 151-164

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