2018 Volume 64 Issue 5 Pages 321-328
Hepatic encephalopathy is a major complication in patients with advanced cirrhosis and is associated with poor prognosis. To evaluate the effectiveness of L-carnitine supplementation in patients with overt hepatic encephalopathy (OHE), outcomes were retrospectively analyzed in patients with OHE who were treated with intravenous branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), with or without intravenous L-carnitine. Twenty-six patients were treated with intravenous BCAA in addition to conventional agents such as lactulose and non-absorbable antibiotics (Group A), and 19 patients were treated with these agents plus intravenous L-carnitine (Group L). Changes in blood ammonia concentrations, hepatic coma grade and the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) were compared in the two groups. Recurrence-free survival (RFS) was evaluated in the two groups and in patients who were and were not administered oral L-carnitine supplementation. At baseline, GCS scores were significantly lower and deterioration in liver function greater in Group L. After 3 d of intravenous L-carnitine, however, GCS showed a significantly greater improvement in Group L than in Group A. Blood ammonia levels improved stably over time in Group L. Overall survival and RFS were similar in Group L and Group A, but median RFS was significantly longer in patients who did than did not receive oral L-carnitine supplementation (735 versus 497 d, p=0.03). Although these findings are preliminary, L-carnitine supplementation may be a therapeutic option for patients with OHE and disturbed consciousness.