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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 27, Issue 10, Pages 572-574

Minimal Hepatic Encephalopathy

Laura M Stinton and Saumya Jayakumar

Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Received 28 May 2013; Accepted 23 June 2013

Copyright © 2013 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE) is the earliest form of hepatic encephalopathy and can affect up to 80% of cirrhotic patients. By definition, it has no obvious clinical manifestation and is characterized by neurocognitive impairment in attention, vigilance and integrative function. Although often not considered to be clinically relevant and, therefore, not diagnosed or treated, MHE has been shown to affect daily functioning, quality of life, driving and overall mortality. The diagnosis of MHE has traditionally been achieved through neuropsychological examination, psychometric tests or the newer critical flicker frequency test. A new smartphone application (EncephalApp Stroop Test) may serve to function as a screening tool for patients requiring further testing. In addition to physician reporting and driving restrictions, medical treatment for MHE includes non-absorbable disaccharides (eg, lactulose), probiotics or rifaximin. Liver transplantation may not result in reversal of the cognitive deficits associated with MHE.