Role of artificial liver support in hepatic encephalopathy.

Metab Brain Dis. 2009 Mar;24(1):15-26.

Stadlbauer V, Wright GA, Jalan R.

Institute of Hepatology, University College London Medical School, 69-75 Chenies Mews, London, WC1E 6HX, UK.

Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) refers to the reversible neuropsychiatric disorders observed in acute liver failure and as a complication of cirrhosis and/or portal hypertension. This review aims to describe the pathophysiology of HE, the rationale for the use of artificial liver support in the treatment of HE, the different concepts of artificial liver support and the results obtained. Ammonia has been considered central to its pathogenesis but recently an important role for its interaction with inflammatory responses and auto-regulation of cerebral hemodynamics has been suggested. Artificial liver support might be able to decrease ammonia and modulate inflammatory mediators and cerebral hemodynamics. Bioartificial liver support systems use hepatocytes in an extracorporeal device connected to the patient's circulation. Artificial liver support is intended to remove protein-bound toxins and water-soluble toxins without providing synthetic function. Both systems improve clinical and biochemical parameters and can be applied safely to patients. Clinical studies have shown that artificial liver support, especially albumin dialysis, is able to improve HE in acute and acute-on-chronic liver failure. Further studies are required to better understand the mechanism, however, artificial liver support can be added to the therapeutic bundle in treating HE.