Home > Medical Reference > Encyclopedia (English)

Toggle: English / Spanish

Ask Our Experts

Get answers to your specific medical questions from Kernan Hospital experts.

Note: This is for informational purposes only. Doctors cannot provide a diagnosis via e-mail.

 

Related Content

Kernan Hospital

Our Services

Patient Success Stories

Our Doctors

Hepatic encephalopathy - Symptom

Alternative Names

Hepatic coma; Encephalopathy - hepatic

Symptoms:

Symptoms many begin slowly and gradually worsen, or they may begin suddenly and be severe from the start.

Symptoms may be mild at first. Family members or caregivers may notice that the patient has:

  • Breath with a musty or sweet odor
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Changes in thinking
  • Confusion that is mild
  • Forgetfulness
  • Mental fogginess
  • Personality or mood changes
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor judgment
  • Worsening of handwriting or loss of other small hand movements

More severe symptoms may include:

  • Abnormal movements or shaking of hands or arms
  • Agitation, excitement, or seizures (occur rarely)
  • Disorientation
  • Drowsiness or confusion
  • Inappropriate behavior or severe personality changes
  • Slurred speech
  • Slowed or sluggish movement

Patients with hepatic encephalopathy can become unconscious, unresponsive, and possibly enter a coma.

Patients with hepatic encephalopathy are often not able to care for themselves because of these symptoms.

Signs and tests:

Nervous system signs may change. Signs include:

  • Coarse, "flapping" shaking of the hands when attempting to hold the arms out in front of the body and lift the hands
  • Abnormal mental status, particularly cognitive (thinking) tasks such as connecting numbers with lines
  • Signs of liver disease, such as yellow skin and eyes (jaundice) and fluid collection in the abdomen (ascites), and occasionally a musty odor to the breath and urine

Tests may include:

  • Reviewed last on: 10/13/2009
  • George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

References

Schuppan D, Afdhal NH. Liver cirrhosis. Lancet. 2008;371:838-851.

Munoz SJ. Hepatic encephalopathy. Med Clin North Am. 2008;795-812.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com