What is the role of lab testing in the workup of hepatic encephalopathy (HE)?

Updated: Apr 04, 2019
  • Author: David C Wolf, MD, FACP, FACG, AGAF, FAASLD; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
  • Print
Answer

Answer

An elevated blood ammonia level is the classic laboratory abnormality reported in patients with hepatic encephalopathy. [17] This finding may aid in correctly diagnosing patients with cirrhosis who present with altered mental status. However, serial ammonia measurements are inferior to clinical assessment in gauging improvement or deterioration in a patient under therapy for hepatic encephalopathy. Checking the ammonia level in a patient with cirrhosis who does not have hepatic encephalopathy has no utility. Only arterial or free venous blood specimens must be assayed when checking the ammonia level. Blood drawn from an extremity to which a tourniquet has been applied may provide a falsely elevated ammonia level when analyzed.


Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!