, Volume 16, Issue 1-2, pp 13-19

Attention Deficits in Minimal Hepatic Encephalopathy

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Minimal hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is characterized by a decrease of psychomotor speed, and deficits in visual perception, visuo-spatial orientation, and visuo-constructive abilities. Attention deficits have also been proposed to be part of the syndrome. Several attempts were made in the past to elaborate suitable psychometric means for the assessment of minimal HE. However, there is still no “gold standard” for the diagnosis of minimal HE. We recently evaluated the so called “PSE-Test” for the assessment of minimal HE, a test battery which does not include a test predominantly aimed at the assessment of attention. We therefore presented a battery of attention tests in addition to the PSE-Test to a group of cirrhotics without clinical signs of HE compared to a healthy control group matched for age and education to determine whether the addition of special attention tests would increase the diagnostic sensitivity of the PSE-Test. It was shown that the patients with a pathological PSE-Test result differed significantly from controls in all attention tests applied, while the patients with normal PSE-Test results achieved attention test results similar to that of the controls. Thus, the PSE-Test results represent attention deficits as well as deficits in motor skills, visuo-spatial orientation, and visual construction.