Recommendation ID

Acute hepatic encephalopathy:- In people with cirrhosis and an acute episode of hepatic encephalopathy secondary to a clearly identified, potentially reversible precipitating factor, does management of the precipitating event alone improve the hepatic encephalopathy without specific treatment?

Any explanatory notes
(if applicable)

Why this is important:- Hepatic encephalopathy is a major complication of cirrhosis. Approximately 50% of people with cirrhosis will develop clinically apparent hepatic encephalopathy at some stage after diagnosis – the risk being around 5–25% within 5 years. Hospital admissions are common and inpatient stays often prolonged. The presence of hepatic encephalopathy is associated with a significant increase in mortality; survival after the first episode is 42% at 1 year and 23% at 3 years.
At present, treatment of hepatic encephalopathy is directed primarily at reducing the production and absorption of gut-derived neurotoxins, particularly ammonia, mainly through bowel cleansing, and the use of non-absorbable disaccharides, such as lactulose, although several other agents such as non absorbable antibiotics are also used. However, in approximately 50% of people admitted with episodic hepatic encephalopathy there is a clearly defined precipitating factor (for example, infections, gastrointestinal bleeding or overuse of diuretics). Treatment is often challenging and some people may need to be cared for in an intensive care setting, at least initially. The identification and correction of any precipitating events is important as there is evidence that this alone may improve hepatic encephalopathy without recourse to specific therapies. However, this has not been rigorously tested in a randomised clinical trial.

Source guidance details

Comes from guidance
Cirrhosis in over 16s: assessment and management
Date issued
July 2016

Other details

Is this a recommendation for the use of a technology only in the context of research? No  
Is it a recommendation that suggests collection of data or the establishment of a register?   No  
Last Reviewed 31/07/2016