Minimal Hepatic Encephalopathy and Mild Cognitive Impairment Worsen Quality of Life in Elderly Patients With Cirrhosis

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2020 Dec;18(13):3008-3016.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2020.03.033. Epub 2020 Mar 20.


Background & aims: Patients with cirrhosis are growing older. The overlap between minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE) and predementia mild cognitive impairment (MCI) could affect quality of life (QOL). We investigated the performance of elderly patients with cirrhosis on tests for MHE and MCI and their effects on QOL.

Methods: We recruited outpatients with cirrhosis (n = 109) and without cirrhosis (controls, n = 100), 65 years or older, at 4 centers (derivation cohort). All study participants were assessed for psychometric hepatic encephalopathy score (PHES), EncephalApp score, and QOL. MCI was tested in patients with cirrhosis using the repeatable battery for assessment of neuropsychological status and assigned to the following groups: unimpaired, MCI only, MHE only, and MCI+MHE. We created adjusted norms to detect MHE using PHES and EncephalApp scores from the controls. Findings were validated using data from a separate cohort of 77 patients with cirrhosis (mean age, 69.49 ± 4.36 y; 72% men) at the same study sites.

Results: Controls were older but were more educated, performed better cognitively, and had better QOL. Among patients with cirrhosis, age, education, model for end-stage liver disease score, EncephalApp score, and QOL were similar, but PHES and repeatable battery for assessment of neuropsychological status differed among sites. In the derivation cohort, the presence of MHE, with or without MCI, was associated with poor QOL, which was lowest in the MCI+MHE group. When we adjusted for age, sex, and education, 49% of patients with cirrhosis had MHE based on the EncephalApp and 8% had MHE based on the PHES. A similar pattern (49% MHE based on EncephalApp and 6% MHE based on PHES) was found in a validation cohort.

Conclusions: In a multicenter study of patients with cirrhosis (>65 y) and controls, the presence of MHE, regardless of MCI, was associated with poor cognition and QOL. We created adjusted norms that defined the high sensitivity of EncephalApp for the detection of MHE in older individuals and validated it in a separate cohort.

Keywords: Aging; Daily Function; Dementia; Memory; Transplant Selection.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cognitive Dysfunction*
  • End Stage Liver Disease*
  • Female
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications
  • Male
  • Psychometrics
  • Quality of Life
  • Severity of Illness Index