Acetyl-L-carnitine reduces depression and improves quality of life in patients with minimal hepatic encephalopathy

Scand J Gastroenterol. 2011 Jun;46(6):750-9. doi: 10.3109/00365521.2011.565067. Epub 2011 Mar 28.


Background: Minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE) represents a common complication present in well-compensated cirrhotic patients that impairs patients' daily functioning and health-related quality of life (HRQL). Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) has been shown to be useful in improving blood ammonia and cognitive functions in cirrhotic patients with MHE.

Objective: This study evaluated the effects of ALC treatment on HRQL and depression in patients with MHE.

Study design: This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Sixty-seven patients with MHE were recruited to the study. They were randomly assigned to two groups and received either 2 g acetyl-L-carnitine twice a day (n = 33) or placebo (n = 34) for 90 days. The primary efficacy measures were changes in aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, γ-glutamyl-transpeptidase, albumin, alkaline phosphatase, prothrombin time, and ammonia. Clinical and laboratory assessments, psychometric tests and automated electroencephalogram (EEG) analysis were performed for all patients.

Results: At the end of the study period, between the two groups, we observed a significant difference in physical function (p < 0.001), role physical (p < 0.001), general health (p < 0.001), social function (p < 0.05), role emotional (p < 0.05), mental health (p < 0.05), Beck Depression Inventory (p < 0.001), TMT-B s (p < 0.001), State Trait Inventory (p < 0.001), urea (p < 0.05), NH(4)(+) (p < 0.001), and bilirubin (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: This study shows that ALC treatment is associated with significant improvement in patient energy levels, general functioning and well-being. The improvement of quality of life is associated with reduction of anxiety and depression.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcarnitine / therapeutic use*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety Disorders / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nootropic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Psychometrics
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Nootropic Agents
  • Acetylcarnitine