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Vol. 21, No. 3, 2003
Issue release date: 2003
Dig Dis 2003;21:271–275

L-Carnitine in the Treatment of Mild or Moderate Hepatic Encephalopathy

Malaguarnera M. · Pistone G. · Astuto M. · Dell’Arte S. · Finocchiaro G. · Lo Giudice E. · Pennisi G.
aDipartimento di Scienze della Senescenza, Urologiche e Neurologiche, Università degli Studi di Catania, e bDipartimenti di Neuroscienze e cSpecialità Medico-chirurgiche Sez. Anestesiologia, Università di Catania, Italia

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Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is one of the major complications of cirrhosis. Experimental and clinical findings observed in liver, muscle and brain have provided new insights into the ammonia mechanism of action. L-Carnitine (LC), inducing ureagenesis, may decrease blood and brain ammonia levels. 120 patients meeting inclusion criteria were randomized either to a treatment for 60 days with LC or placebo (2 g twice a day). Previous studies have reported a significant protective effect of LC in mice and rats, which is associated with a significant reduction of blood and brain ammonia concentration, suggesting an action of LC either at peripheral or central sites. Results of our study show a protective effect of LC in ammonia-precipitated encephalopathy in cirrhotic patients. Either in subjects with HE 1 or 2 we observed a significant reduction at day 30 and more markedly at day 60 of treatment. A significant therapeutic effect of LC was also observed in the NCT-A, which is an accepted and reliable psychometric test for the assessment of mental function in cirrhotic patients with HE.

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