Department of Gastroenterology, First Affiliated Hospital of Dalian Medical University, Dalian, Liaoning 116011;
Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is a severe and high-mortality complication in cirrhotic patients. In this study, we analyzed infection, one of the common precipitating factors of HE in patients with cirrhosis, in order to identify common infection sites and the etiology. In addition, we aimed to identify information useful in the early prevention and effective treatment of HE. Ninety-two patients presenting with hepatitis B virus-related cirrhosis with HE (HBC-HE) and 45 patients presenting with alcoholic cirrhosis with HE (ALD-HE) were enrolled in this study. We collected and analyzed data concerning the precipitating factors of HE using blood tests, biochemical detection and bacterial culture to identify which precipitating factor was the most common. Fifty-three patients with HE (37 with HBC-HE and 16 with HBC-HE) had infection as the precipitating factor. These infections included respiratory tract infection (56.6%), intestinal tract infection (20.7%), peritoneal infection (17.0%) and urinary tract infection (5.7%). The white blood cell (WBC) counts increased in 17 cases (32.1%) and neutrophil (NEUT) numbers increased in 39 cases (73.6%), while WBC counts were lower in the patients with respiratory tract infection compared with those in the patients with infections at other sites (P<0.05). The levels of plasma ammonia were significantly higher in patients with intestinal tract infection than in those with other sites of infection (P<0.05). The proportions of patients with hyperammonemia, increased NEUT numbers, hyponatremia and low albumin were higher in the infection group compared with those in the non-infection group (P<0.05). Pneumococci and E. coli were common bacteria that induced infection in the respiratory tract and at other infection sites, respectively. Respiratory tract infection was identified to be the most common precipitating factor for HE.