Loyola Medicine logoIt is a well known fact that, alcoholism probably leads to liver cirrhosis. The University of Loyola, now suggests that, more than half of the patients suffering from liver cirrhosis, apparently show neurocognitive impairments. These impairments could possibly include short term memory loss. The study authors tested 301 cirrhosis patients and found that 54 percent of these patients, scored below the 10th percentile for their age and education on a test that measures neurocognitive abilities.

Diseased livers are probably, unable to clear toxins such as ammonia, from the body. It is these toxins that may cause neurocognitive impairment in liver patients. Neurocognitive impairment in liver patients is termed as hepatic encephalopathy. The study undertaken seems to be the first to document, a comparison of liver patients with the general population.

“Neurocognitive impairment is a major issue in patients with liver disease. This can affect patients’ ability to do everyday tasks such as working, driving or managing their finances”, shared Loyola neuropsychologist Christopher Randolph, PhD and clinical professor in the Department of Neurology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

The study included a mass sample of liver patients, from multiple centers nationwide. These patients were given the Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS) test. This test has been developed by Randolph himself and is widely used across the globe, to conduct various studies. In this test, the patients were given 20-25 minutes, to fill in the test paper. Various tasks such as identifying line drawings of common objects, repeating lists of digits, copying geometrical figures and recalling a story were included in the test. With the help of these tests, the study authors measured the memory, attention, language and visual-spatial functions of each of them.

It then appeared that, the average score on RBANS of the general masses was 100. But, the average score amongst liver patients, those who had neurocognitive impairments, was 74. This score is lower, than the average score of patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. It was also revealed that, the factors such as age, gender, educational level or severity of the underlying disease, did not seem to affect the prevalence of neurocognitive impairment.

The study in reality is a subset of a larger study. It seems to study whether or not an experimental compound called AST-120, benefits liver patients who have neurocognitive impairments.

The study was presented on May 3 during the Digestive Disease Week in New Orleans.