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Treatment of porto-systemic encephalopathy with lactitol verus lactulose: a randomized controlled study.

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Department of Medicine, Veterans General Hospital-Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.



Lactitol (beta-galactosido-sorbitol), a novel disaccharide analogue of lactulose, has been suggested as an alternative to lactulose in the treatment of portosystemic encephalopathy (PSE) in Western country. In order to assess its therapeutic effect and adverse reaction in PSE in the Chinese, we conducted this study.


Forty-one patients with PSE were enrolled in this study. Patients were randomly divided into 2 groups to receive lactitol (n = 21) or lactulose (n = 20) for 5 days. The doses of both drugs were adjusted to keep daily bowel movement of 2 to 3 times. The PSE index (mental state, EEG, asterixis, number connection test [NCT], and ammonia) was evaluated in each patient before and after treatment. Daily doses of lactitol and lactulose, stool frequency, and side effect were recorded.


The mean dose of lactitol used was 66.3 +/- 36.4 gm and that of lactulose was 56.9 +/- 32.1 ml of lactulose. The majority of patients (37/41) gained clear consciousness after 5 days' treatment. In the lactitol group, blood ammonia, EEG, NCT, asterixis, mental status and PSE index before treatment were 208 +/- 62 micrograms/ml, 2.9 +/- 0.8, 4.0 +/- 0.0, 2.7 +/- 1.5, 2.9 +/- 0.7 and 77.1 +/- 10.5, respectively. All parameters decreased significantly after 5 days' treatment (119 +/- 50 micrograms/ml, 1.1 +/- 1.0, 2.9 +/- 1.2, 1.7 +/- 1.1, 0.7 +/- 0.7, and 34.4 +/- 16.0, p < 0.05). The lactulose group had the similar results. However, the improvement of PSE index after therapy in the lactitol group was significantly higher than that in the lactulose group (42.7 +/- 19.3 vs 31.1 +/- 13.7, p < 0.05). In addition, more patients in the lactitol group than in the lactulose group (67% vs 20%, p = 0.003) favored the taste of their assigned drugs. No patient who received lactitol experienced any side effects; however, six patients treated with lactulose complained of meteorism and flatulence, and four complained of nausea.


Both lactitol and lactulose are effective in the treatment of PSE, though the effect of lactitol seems slightly superior to that of lactulose in our study. Lactitol is more acceptable to our patients due to better palatability and less side effects. Lactitol is another good alternative in the treatment of PSE.

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