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Hepatic Encephalopathy (HE)

Diagnosis, Treatment & Support

Explore this section to learn more about Hepatic Encephalopathy (HE), how the condition is diagnosed, and methods of preventing recurrence.

What is Hepatic Encephalopothy?

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.

Facts at-a-Glance

  • Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is a brain disorder caused by liver damage
  • HE can be mild or overt
  • HE occurs when the liver cannot remove toxic chemicals in the blood and these chemicals enter the brain
  • Symptoms of HE may progress slowly, or may occur suddenly
  • Common symptoms of HE include confusion, forgetfulness, personality or mood changes, poor concentration and judgment, stale or sweet odored breath, change in sleep patterns, and worsening of handwriting or small hand movements
  • People with HE can enter a coma or have brain damage
  • HE can be a medical emergency and hospitalization is usually required
  • Treatments like lactulose and Rifaxamin (Xifaxan) aim to manage the disease and keep people out of the hospital
  • The best way to reduce the risk of HE is to prevent, treat, or manage liver disease and engage in preventative/maintenance therapy

Your Liver

Did You Know It's a Really Important Organ?

In fact, it's the second largest one in your body and is located right under your rib cage on your right side. It weighs about three pounds and is shaped like a football that's flat on one side.

It performs many jobs. Your liver processes what you eat and drink into energy and nutrients your body uses and filters out harmful substances from your blood.

Hepatic Encephalopothy Brochure