- 3 patients with liver failure developed hepatic encephalopathy. 2 patients, men aged 60 and 72 years, had chronic liver disease and presented with episodes of confusion. They recovered after being treated with lactulose. The third patient, a 37-year-old woman, became comatose shortly after the onset of acute liver failure due to acute autoimmune hepatitis. She died before a suitable donor liver became available. Hepatic encephalopathy is a syndrome of potential reversible neurological symptoms. Especially in the early stages of the condition, hepatic encephalopathy can be difficult to diagnose. Patients may present with mild cognitive impairment or episodes characterized by neurological symptoms. Hepatic encephalopathy is a clinical diagnosis. The pathophysiologic mechanism is only partly understood but toxicity of ammonia on the central nervous system seems to be of major importance. Raised ammonia concentrations or EEG findings consistent with metabolic encephalopathy may support but are not essential to the diagnosis. Episodes of hepatic encephalopathy are often elicited by an underlying disease such as infection or gastro-intestinal bleeding. It is important to recognize hepatic encephalopathy in its early stages because adequate treatment of the condition and any underlying disease reduces morbidity and mortality.
Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2007;151:2701-6