Liver Disease Information
In Your Area
American Liver Foundation
39 Broadway, Suite 2700
New York, New York 10006
In order to more fully understand your experience as a caregiver of a loved one with cirrhosis who has been diagnosed with hepatic encephalopathy (HE), we’d like to ask you to take a few moments to answer some questions that will help expand our knowledge and awareness of what it is like to provide this type of care. It is our hope that this survey will help inform further programs, assistance, and other types of information available to you and other caregivers like you. TAKE THE SURVEY
Explore this section to learn more about Hepatic Encephalopathy (HE), how the condition is diagnosed, and methods of preventing recurrence.
The liver is the second largest organ in your body and is located under your rib cage on the right side. It weighs about three pounds and is shaped like a football that is flat on one side.
The liver performs many jobs in your body. It processes what you eat and drink into energy and nutrients your body can use. The liver also removes harmful substances from your blood.
HE is a brain disorder, and one of the major complications of cirrhosis. There are two classifications for HE: mild and overt. The symptoms of mild HE are subtle and overlooked often by patients and family members. Overt HE is often marked by physical and mental symptoms such as confusion and issues with balance, and is a long-term, recurring condition.
HE occurs when the liver is damaged and cannot remove toxic chemicals, such as ammonia, from the blood. These chemicals then enter the brain, affecting both the mental and physical condition of cirrhotic patients. Episodes of HE often result in hospitalization, and without treatment, patients remain at high risk for recurrence.
The following factors may trigger HE:
HE can cause mental and physical symptoms. They can vary person to person, and may progress slowly or occur suddenly.
Symptoms may include:
Severe symptoms may include:
Complications of HE may include:
HE can be a medical emergency and hospitalization is usually required. It is important to see a doctor as soon as symptoms begin. At the hospital, doctors determine and treat what may have caused hepatic encephalopathy. Treatments aim to manage the disease and keep people out of the hospital and prevent recurrence.
Depending on the cause, treatments may include:
For people with chronic HE, doctors may recommend:
The best way to reduce the risk of HE is to prevent, treat, or manage liver disease. The risk of recurrence can be managed with maintenance/preventative therapy with lactulose and/or Xifaxan. Diet and lifestyle changes can also have an impact on reducing the threat of recurrence.
Talk to your doctor about risk factors and steps that can be taken to prevent chronic HE.
HE is a serious condition, whose episodes often result in repeat hospitalizations. Once HE patients have experienced one episode, they are always at risk for recurrence. Studies have shown a reduction in the risk of repeat episodes in HE patients who are on preventative maintenance therapy such as lactulose and/or Xifaxan. Once a cirrhotic patient has had one HE episode, preventative maintenance therapy is recommended.