Lactitol in the treatment of chronic hepatic encephalopathy--a randomized cross-over comparison with lactulose

Hepatogastroenterology. 1990 Oct;37(5):524-7.


The effect of lactitol, a new non-absorbable disaccharide, in the treatment of chronic hepatic encephalopathy was assessed in 14 cirrhotic patients with non-selective portosystemic anastomosis in a randomized, cross-over study. At the time of inclusion, all patients showed alterations in mental state, and/or psychometric performance, and in the electroencephalogram. Moreover, 10 out of 14 patients suffered from recurrent episodes of hepatic encephalopathy in the 12 months prior to the study. Patients were randomly treated for two consecutive periods of six months with either lactitol or lactulose. The PSE index was calculated to quantify the neuro-psychiatric impairment. Twelve patients completed the study. The patients required a daily dose of 38.2 g +/- 19 of lactulose or 36.3 g +/- 5 of lactitol to produce two semi-soft stools per day. No deterioration in the mental state or in the other neuro-psychiatric parameters were observed, neither during lactitol nor during lactulose therapy. During the study, mild episodes of recurrent encephalopathy occurred in 60% of the patients taking lactulose, and in 25% of the patients taking lactitol, the difference not being significant (X = 1.54, p = 0.21). Flatulence, the major side-effect noted during the study, was present in 7 of the 12 patients during lactulose treatment, and in 2 patients during lactitol treatment; one patient on lactitol complained of nausea. The side effects which occurred during lactitol of the dosage, while those occurring during lactitol appeared when the dosage was higher than 40 g. Lactitol may be considered at least as effective as lactulose in the treatment of chronic hepatic encephalopathy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy / drug therapy*
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy / etiology
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy / metabolism
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy / psychology
  • Humans
  • Lactulose / therapeutic use*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Portasystemic Shunt, Surgical / adverse effects
  • Sugar Alcohols / therapeutic use*


  • Sugar Alcohols
  • Lactulose
  • lactitol