What is Hepatic Encephalopathy?

The Connection Between HE and Liver Disease

HE is most often seen in people with chronic liver disease. Anything that damages your liver over many years – such as long-term alcohol abuse or chronic hepatitis – can cause it to form scar tissue. As hard scar tissue replaces soft, healthy tissue two things begin to happen:

  • The scarred tissue cannot carry out the process of changing toxins into harmless substances like a healthy liver normally would.
  • The scarred tissue can block the flow of blood through the liver causing high blood pressure in the veins in and around your liver (called the portal venous system). This condition is known as portal hypertension.

When your liver can’t filter toxins from your blood or when blood flow through your liver is blocked, toxins build up in your bloodstream and can get into your brain.

Ammonia, which is produced by your body when proteins are digested, is one of the toxins that’s normally made harmless by your liver. But when ammonia, or a range of other toxic substances, build up in your body when your liver isn’t working well, it may affect your brain and cause HE.