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Hepatic Encephalopathy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 4, 2024.

What is hepatic encephalopathy (HE)?

HE is a brain condition that is caused by liver disease. Liver diseases such as cirrhosis prevent the liver from removing ammonia and other harmful substances from the blood. The harmful substances build up in the blood and prevent the brain from working correctly. Early treatment is needed to reverse the damaging effects of this condition and restore proper brain function.

What increases my risk for HE?

Any of the following may increase your risk for HE if you have a liver disease:

What are the signs and symptoms of HE?

At first, you may have only mild symptoms. Over time, you may develop more severe symptoms:

How is HE diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and do a neurological exam. A neurologic exam can show healthcare providers how well your brain works after an injury or illness. Healthcare providers will check how your pupils react to light. They may check your memory and how easily you wake up. Your hand grasp and balance may also be tested. You may also need blood and urine tests to look for infection or test liver function. Healthcare providers may also use the tests to get information about your overall health.

How is HE treated?

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

What can I do to manage HE?

Call 911 or have someone else call for any of the following:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.