BACKGROUND: Previous studies suggest that rifaximin is efficacious in the treatment of hepatic encephalopathy.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of rifaximin in addition to lactulose in improving hospitalization outcomes in patients with hepatic encephalopathy.
METHODS: Hospital records of patients evaluated for liver transplantation at a single center between January 2006 and May 2008 were reviewed. Hospitalizations for hepatic encephalopathy and other conditions and the incidence of spontaneous bacterial peritonitis and adverse events were analyzed.
RESULTS: Charts of 65 patients who were treated with rifaximin and lactulose were analyzed. Patients received lactulose (20-120 g/d; lactulose phase) before treatment with rifaximin (400- 1200 mg/d; rifaximin phase). During the rifaximin phase, the risk, number, and duration of hospitalizations for hepatic encephalopathy were reduced compared with the lactulose phase. Treatment, age, and Model for End-Stage Liver Disease score were independent predictors of hospitalizations for hepatic encephalopathy (P < .05). The rifaximin phase had fewer hospitalizations than the lactulose phase (36 vs 47, respectively) and a smaller percentage of patients with repeated hospitalizations than the lactulose phase (5% vs 14%, respectively; P = .006) for conditions other than hepatic encephalopathy. A smaller percentage of patients had evidence of spontaneous bacterial peritonitis during the rifaximin phase than the lactulose phase (2% vs 12%, respectively; P = .02). Rifaximin was better tolerated than lactulose.
CONCLUSIONS: Addition of rifaximin to lactulose therapy significantly reduced the risk and duration of hospitalizations for hepatic encephalopathy.