• Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

What is the treatment for encephalopathy?

Treatment of encephalopathy varies with the primary cause of the symptoms. Consequently, not all cases of encephalopathy are treated the same.

Some examples of different "encephalopathy treatments" for different causes:

  • Short-term anoxia (usually less than two minutes): oxygen therapy
  • Long-term anoxia: rehabilitation
  • Short-term alcohol toxicity: IV fluids or no therapy
  • Long-term alcohol abuse (cirrhosis or chronic liver failure): oral lactulose, low-protein diet, antibiotics
  • Uremic encephalopathy (due to kidney failure): correct the underlying physiologic cause, dialysis, kidney transplant
  • Diabetic encephalopathy: administer glucose to treat hypoglycemia, insulin to treat hyperglycemia
  • Hypo- or hypertensive encephalopathy: medications to raise (for hypotensive) or reduce (for hypertensive) blood pressure

The key to treatment of any encephalopathy is to understand the basic cause and thus design a treatment scheme to reduce or eliminate the cause(s). There is one type of encephalopathy that is difficult or impossible to treat; it is static encephalopathy (an altered mental state or brain damage that is permanent). The best that can be done with static encephalopathy is, if possible, to prevent further damage and implement rehabilitation to allow the individual to perform at his or her highest possible functional level.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/29/2015

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