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Dig Dis Sci. 2000 Aug;45(8):1549-52.

Efficacy of lactulose in cirrhotic patients with subclinical hepatic encephalopathy.

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  • 1Department of Hepatology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India.


To investigate the role of lactulose in the treatment of cirrhotic patients with subclinical hepatic encephalopathy (SHE), 40 cirrhotic patients, 33 males and 7 females, were included in the study. The diagnosis of SHE was made by quantitative psychometric tests including the number connection test (NCT), figure connection test (FCT) parts A and B, and two performance subtests of Wechsler adult intelligence scale, ie, picture completion (PC) and block design (BD) tests. SHE was diagnosed in 26 (65%) of 40 patients. Of these 26 patients, 14 patients were randomized to treatment group (lactulose 30-60 ml/day for three months, SHE-L) and 12 patients to no treatment group (no lactulose, SHE-NL). Psychometric tests were repeated in all patients in both groups and in six patients with no SHE (group NSHE, N = 14) after three months. The mean scores and number of the abnormal psychometric tests at entry were significantly higher in patients in groups SHE-L and SHE-NL than in patients in group NSHE; however, there was no significant difference between SHE-L and SHE-NL. The mean number of the abnormal psychometric tests decreased in patients in group SHE-L after three months of treatment with lactulose (2.9 +/- 0.9 vs 0.8 +/- 1.2; P = 0.004); however, there was no change in patients in group SHE-NL after three months (3.7 +/- 1.5 vs 3.5 +/- 1.3; P = NS). While SHE improved in 8 of 10 patients in group SHE-L, none of the patients in group SHE-NL improved after three months of follow-up (P < 0.001). Two patients in group SHE-NL also developed overt encephalopathy during the study period. We conclude that lactulose treatment in cirrhotic patients with SHE is effective.

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