Secondary prophylaxis of hepatic encephalopathy in cirrhosis of liver: a double-blind randomized controlled trial of L-ornithine L-aspartate versus placebo

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Abstract

Background and aims

Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is associated with a poor prognosis. There is no study on the prevention of recurrence of encephalopathy with L-ornithine L-aspartate (LOLA).

Patients and methods

We conducted a double-blind randomized controlled trial at a tertiary center. Consecutive patients with cirrhosis who had recovered from HE were randomized to receive LOLA (6 g thrice daily) or similar amount of placebo by computer-based randomization for 6 months. Patients were assessed by psychometric HE scores using five paper–pencil tests, critical flicker frequency test, arterial ammonia, and sickness impact profile scores at inclusion. Primary end point was development of overt HE.

Results

Of 306 patients, 150 patients were enrolled. HE recurred in nine (12.3%) of 73 and in 20 (27.7%) of 72 patients receiving LOLA and placebo, respectively (P=0.02), with hazard ratio of 0.389 (95% confidence interval=0.174–0.870). Mortality was similar in both groups (6.8 vs. 13.8%, P=0.18). At 6 months follow-up, there was a significant change in the psychometric hepatic encephalopathy score (2.53±2.18 vs. −0.01±1.92, P<0.001), ammonia level (−23.58±14.8 vs. 1.41±13.34 μmol/l, P<0.001), CFF (5.85±4.82 vs. 0.58±4.53, P<0.001), and SIP scores (−7.89±5.52 vs. −0.95±4.25, P<0.001) in patients treated with LOLA compared with placebo. On multivariate analysis, only MELD score predicted the recurrence of overt HE, with odds ratio of 2.21 (95% confidence interval: 1.526–3.204, P<0.001).

Conclusion

LOLA is effective in the secondary prophylaxis of HE and is associated with significant improvements in psychometric hepatic encephalopathy score, ammonia level, critical flicker frequency scores, and health-related quality of life.

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