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Hepatic Encephalopathy

Abstract

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NORD is very grateful to Roger F. Butterworth PhD, DSc, Professor of Medicine, University of Montreal, Director, Neuroscience Research Unit, Hopital St-Luc, Montreal, Canada, for assistance in the preparation of this report.

Synonyms of Hepatic Encephalopathy

  • HE
  • portal-systemic encephalopathy

Disorder Subdivisions

  • No subdivisions found.

General Discussion

Hepatic encephalopathy is a brain disorder that develops in some individuals with liver disease. Hepatic encephalopathy is a complex disorder that encompasses a spectrum or continuum of disease that ranges from a subtle condition with no outward signs or symptoms to a severe form that can cause serious, life-threatening complications. Symptoms are related to progressive dysfunction of the brain and may include personality changes, intellectual impairment, impaired memory and loss of consciousness (coma). Hepatic encephalopathy can occur in individuals with acute or chronic liver (hepatic) disease or in individuals whose liver is bypassed by a portosystemic shunt (with no liver disease present). A portosystemic shunt is an abnormal passageway that allows blood from the gastrointestinal tract to bypass the liver. They can be present at birth (congenital) or acquired during life. Hepatic encephalopathy is caused when toxins that are normally cleared from the body by the liver accumulate in the blood, eventually traveling to the brain. Many of the symptoms of hepatic encephalopathy are reversible when promptly detected and treated.

Hepatic Encephalopathy Resources

Organizations:

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