Minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE) represents a part of the spectrum of hepatic encephalopathy (HE). It can have a far-reaching impact on quality and ability to function in daily life and may progress to overt HE. This study was designed to screen for MHE in drivers with liver cirrhosis in Mansoura, a city in the Nile delta in Egypt.
A total of 174 consecutive drivers with positive serology for viral markers and cirrhosis were screened for MHE. Questionnaires and standard psychometric tests and well-informed consent were performed at the same setting. The diagnosis of MHE was made when one or both symbol digit test (SDT) and number connection test (NCT) appeared abnormal. Beck's inventory and Mini Mental State Examination questionnaires were performed for those diagnosed as MHE. After overnight fasting, venous blood samples were taken for haematologic tests and routine liver function tests by conventional methods. Arterial ammonia was also measured.
A total of 66 patients showed evidence for MHE out of 139 patients who fulfilled the inclusion criteria. No significant differences were present, apart from a significantly elevated arterial ammonia level (p-value <0.001) and a bad self-reported driving history (p<0.05) in the MHE-positive group when compared with the MHE-negative group. Multivariate logistic regression revealed that advanced Child-Pugh grade (p<0.001), hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related aetiology (p<0.001) and smoking are significant risk factors for MHE. MHE is significantly commoner among Child-Pugh C patients (p<0.05) when compared with the other Child-Pugh grades.
Our data revealed a high prevalence of MHE (47%) among Egyptian drivers with liver cirrhosis. It is hence recommended to include the driving history as well as regular pencil-paper standard psychometric testing in evaluating those at risk, especially in the outpatient setting, for early detection and proper management.