Probiotic yogurt for the treatment of minimal hepatic encephalopathy.
Am J Gastroenterol. 2008 Jul;103(7):1707-15. PMID: 18691193
OBJECTIVES: Minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE), the preclinical stage of overt hepatic encephalopathy (OHE), is a significant condition affecting up to 60% of cirrhotics. All MHE therapies modify gut microflora, but consensus regarding MHE treatment and long-term adherence studies is lacking. The aim was to determine the effect of probiotic supplementation in the form of a food item, probiotic yogurt, on MHE reversal and adherence. METHODS: Nonalcoholic MHE cirrhotics (defined by a standard psychometric battery) were randomized with unblinded allocation to receive probiotic yogurt (with proven culture stability) or no treatment (no Rx) for 60 days in a 2:1 ratio. Quality of life (short form [SF]-36), adherence, venous ammonia, model of end-stage liver disease (MELD) scores, and inflammatory markers (tumor necrosis factor [TNF]-alpha, interleukin [IL]-6) were also measured. Outcomes were MHE reversal using blinded scoring, OHE development, and adherence. RESULTS: Twenty-five patients (17 yogurt, 8 no Rx; 84% Child class A) were enrolled. A significantly higher percentage of yogurt patients reversed MHE compared to no Rx patients (71%vs 0%, P= 0.003, intention-to-treat). Yogurt patients demonstrated a significant improvement in number connection test-A (NCT-A), block design test (BDT), and digit symbol test (DST) compared to baseline/no Rx group. Twenty-five percent of no Rx versus 0% of yogurt patients developed OHE during the trial. Eighty-eight percent of yogurt patients were adherent. No adverse effects or change in covariates were observed. All patients who completed the yogurt arm were agreeable to continue yogurt for 6 months if needed. CONCLUSIONS: This trial demonstrated a significant rate of MHE reversal and excellent adherence in cirrhotics after probiotic yogurt supplementation with potential for long-term adherence.