Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) markedly reduces an individual's quality of life as measured by established scoring systems. However, the experiences of having HE that can be assumed to cause the loss of quality of life have not yet been examined. This study aimed to explore how individuals with cirrhosis experienced overt HE by means of an in-depth interview with a tailored semistructured interview guide and qualitative analysis. Eight patients with cirrhosis who had clinically recovered from disorientation, somnolence, and stupor due to episodic HE Grade II or III were interviewed. The collected data were analyzed using systematic text condensation, as described by K. Malterud (2012). The analysis process identified 4 themes, “multiple losses,” “anxiety,” “dependence on others,” and “social isolation,” which described the experiences of HE both during an episode and in recovery. We believe that these findings provide an important contribution to gain a deeper understanding of the widespread loss of quality of life caused by HE. Management of these individuals should involve procedures and attitudes targeted against the described experiences. However, more research is needed about the individuals' experiences of HE to further detail such efforts.
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