Metabolic Encephalopathies in the Critical Care Unit

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Purpose of Review: This article summarizes the most common etiologies and approaches to management of metabolic encephalopathy.Recent Findings: Metabolic encephalopathy is a frequent occurrence in the intensive care unit setting. Common etiologies include hepatic failure, renal failure, sepsis, electrolyte disarray, and Wernicke encephalopathy. Current treatment paradigms typically focus on supportive care and management of the underlying etiology. Directed therapies that target neurochemical and neurotransmitter pathways that mediate encephalopathy are not currently available and represent an important area for future research. Although commonly thought of as reversible neurologic insults, delirium and encephalopathy have been associated with increased mortality, prolonged length of stay and hospital complications, and worse long-term cognitive and functional outcomes.Summary: Recognition and treatment of encephalopathy is critical to improving outcomes in critically ill patients.

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