Probiotics in management of hepatic encephalopathy
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Gut microflora leads to production of ammonia and endotoxins which play important role in the pathogenesis of hepatic encephalopathy (HE). There is relationship between HE and absorption of nitrogenous substances from the intestines. Probiotics play a role in treatment of HE by causing alterations in gut flora by decreasing the counts of pathogen bacteria, intestinal mucosal acidification, decrease in production and absorption of ammonia, alterations in permeability of gut, decreased endotoxin levels and changes in production of short chain fatty acids. Role of gut microbiota using prebiotics, probiotics and synbiotics have been evaluated in the management of minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE), overt HE and prevention of HE. Many studies have shown efficacy of probiotics in reduction of blood ammonia levels, treatment of MHE and prevention of HE. However these trials have problems like inclusion of small number of patients, short treatment durations, variability in HE/MHE related outcomes utilized and high bias risk, errors of systematic and random types. Systematic reviews also have shown different results with one systematic review showing clinical benefits whereas another concluded that probiotics do not have any role in treatment of MHE or HE. Also practical questions on optimal dose, ideal combination of organisms, and duration of treatment and persistence of benefits on long term follow-up are still to be clarified. At present, there are no recommendations for use of probiotics in patients with HE.
KeywordsHepatic encephalopathy Minimal hepatic encephalopathy Probiotics Cirrhosis Chronic liver disease Lactulose
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