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Hepatitic Encephalopathy

Hepatic encephalopathy is a worsening of brain function that occurs when the liver is no longer able to remove toxic substances in the blood.

Hepatic encephalopathy is caused by disorders that affect the liver. These include disorders that reduce liver function (such as cirrhosis or hepatitis) and conditions in which blood circulation does not enter the liver.


Ammonia, which is produced by the body when proteins are digested, is one of the harmful substances that are normally made harmless by the liver. Many other substances may also build up in the body if the liver is not working well. They can cause damage to the nervous system.

Hepatic encephalopathy may be triggered by dehydration, eating too much protein, electrolyte abnormalities (especially a decrease in potassium) from vomiting, or from treatments such as paracentesis or taking diuretics ("water pills"), bleeding from the intestines, stomach, or esophagus, infections, kidney problems, low oxygen levels in the body, surgery, use of medications that suppress the central nervous system, or alcohol abuse.

Treatment depends on how bad your condition is. For mild hepatic encephalopathy, a change to a low protein diet may be all that is needed.
A high protein diet increases the ammonia in blood and may worsen the disease. You may also be given medicine to increase bowel movements to reduce the amount of ammonia and other toxins being absorbed into your blood.

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