Rifaximin vs. conventional oral therapy for hepatic encephalopathy: a meta-analysis

World J Gastroenterol. 2012 Feb 28;18(8):767-77. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v18.i8.767.


Aim: To characterize the efficacy of rifaximin in the management of hepatic encephalopathy (HE) as several randomized controlled studies have shown contradictory results on its effectiveness in comparison to other oral agents.

Methods: We performed a systematic review and random effects meta-analysis of all eligible trials identified through electronic and manual searches. Twelve randomized controlled trials met the inclusion criteria with a total of 565 patients.

Results: The clinical effectiveness of rifaximin was equivalent to disaccharides or other oral antibiotics [odds ratio (OR) 0.96; 95% CI: 0.94-4.08] but with a better safety profile (OR 0.27; 95% CI: 0.12-0.59). At the completion of treatment protocols, patients receiving rifaximin showed lower serum ammonia levels [weighted mean difference (WMD) = -10.65; 95% CI: -23.4-2.1; P = 0.10], better mental status (WMD = -0.24; 95% CI: -0.57-0.08; P = 0.15) and less asterixis (WMD -0.1; 95% CI -0.26-0.07; P = 0.25) without reaching statistical significance. On the other hand, other psychometric outcomes such as electroencephalographic response and grades of portosystemic encephalopathy were superior in patients treated with rifaximin in comparison to the control group (WMD = 0.21, 95% CI: -0.33-0.09, P = 0.0004; and WMD = -2.33, 95% CI: -2.68-1.98, P = 0.00001, respectively). Subgroup and sensitivity analysis did not show any significant difference in the above findings.

Conclusion: Rifaximin appears to be at least as effective as other conventional oral agents for the treatment of HE with a better safety profile.

Keywords: Hepatic encephalopathy; Lactulose; Neomycin; Non-absorbable disaccharides; Rifaximin.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Disaccharides / therapeutic use
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Odds Ratio
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Rifamycins / therapeutic use*
  • Rifaximin
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Disaccharides
  • Rifamycins
  • Rifaximin