Hepatic Encephalopathy (HE)

Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) refers to changes in the brain that occur in patients with advanced, acute (sudden) or chronic (long-term) liver disease. It is one of the major complications of cirrhosis.

It can occur suddenly in people with acute liver failure but is more often seen in those with chronic liver disease.

How does hepatic encephalopathy develop?

One of the most important things the liver does is to change potentially damaging substances that are either made by or taken in by the body and make them harmless.

However, if the liver is badly damaged and unable to function properly, these ‘toxins’ can build up in the bloodstream. If they enter the brain, they can result in a condition called hepatic encephalopathy.

As well as the build-up of chemicals and toxins that cause HE, other factors, such as dehydration, constipation or an infection can also trigger an episode.