Rifaximin versus nonabsorbable disaccharides in the management of hepatic encephalopathy: a meta-analysis

Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Nov;20(11):1064-70. doi: 10.1097/MEG.0b013e328302f470.


Objective: To compare the positive and negative effects of rifaximin and nonabsorbable disaccharides in patients with hepatic encephalopathy.

Methods: We used the method recommended by The Cochrane Collaboration to perform a meta-analysis of comparative randomized trials of rifaximin and nonabsorbable disaccharides.

Results: Seven randomized controlled trials were identified, but only five trials involving 264 patients met all the inclusion criteria. There was no significant difference between rifaximin and nonabsorbable disaccharides on improvement in patients with hepatic encephalopathy [relative risk (RR) 1.08; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.85-1.38; P=0.53]. RR was 0.98 (95% CI: 0.85-1.13; P=0.74) for acute hepatic encephalopathy in 157 patients and 0.87 (95% CI: 0.40-1.88; P=0.72) for chronic hepatic encephalopathy in 96 patients, respectively. There was no significant difference between rifaximin and nonabsorbable disaccharides on diarrhea (RR=0.90; 95% CI: 0.17-4.70; P=0.90). However, a significant difference in favor of rifaximin on abdominal pain (RR=0.28; 95% CI: 0.08-0.95; P=0.04) was identified.

Conclusion: Rifaximin is not superior to nonabsorbable disaccharides for acute or chronic hepatic encephalopathy in the long-term or short-term treatment except that it may be better tolerated. Further studies on larger populations are required to provide more sufficient evidence for assessment of the use of rifaximin.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disaccharides / economics
  • Disaccharides / therapeutic use*
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / adverse effects
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Rifamycins / adverse effects
  • Rifamycins / therapeutic use*
  • Rifaximin
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Disaccharides
  • Gastrointestinal Agents
  • Rifamycins
  • Rifaximin