OBJECTIVES: Minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE) reduces quality of life and impacts daily functioning. It is known to impair fitness to drive, but deficits in attention and reaction may also be associated with falls. Falls may have important consequences in patients with cirrhosis due to coagulopathy, osteoporosis, and operative risk. However, the relationship between MHE and falls has not yet been evaluated. The objective of this study is to retrospectively investigate whether MHE is associated with falls in patients with cirrhosis.
METHODS: We included 130 cirrhotic outpatients and 43 controls. MHE was diagnosed according to the results of the psychometric hepatic encephalopathy score (PHES). We recorded the reported incidence and number of falls in the 12 months before the study, the severity of injuries, and the need for healthcare services.
RESULTS: Forty-five (34.6%) patients with cirrhosis exhibited MHE. The proportion of patients with MHE that reported falls (40%) was higher than those without MHE (12.9%, P<0.001), which was similar to controls (11.6%). In patients with MHE, there was a higher need for primary healthcare services (8.8 vs. 0%, P=0.004) and hospitalization (6.6 vs. 2.3%, P=0.34) due to falls than in patients without MHE. Patients on psychoactive drugs (n=21) showed a stronger association between MHE and falls: 6/8 (75%) patients with MHE presented falls vs. 2/13 (15.3%) patients without MHE (P=0.01). In patients not receiving psychoactive drugs (n=109), the incidence of falls was 12/37 (32.4%) in patients with MHE vs. 9/72 (12.5%) in those without MHE (P=0.01). Multivariate analysis showed that MHE (odds ratio (OR): 2.91, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.13-7.48, P=0.02), previous encephalopathy (OR: 2.87, 95% CI: 1.10-7.50, P=0.03), and antidepressant therapy (OR: 3.91, 95% CI: 0.96-15.9, P=0.05) were independent factors associated to previous falls
CONCLUSIONS: Falls are more frequent in cirrhotic patients with MHE, particularly in those on treatment with psychoactive drugs, and are a significant cause for healthcare and hospitalization requirements.