Encephalopathy

  • 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.

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What are the complications of encephalopathy?

Complications of encephalopathy vary from none to profound mental impairments that lead to death. The complications can be similar in some cases. Also, many investigators consider encephalopathy itself to be a complication that arises from a primary health problem or primary diagnosis.

Complications depend on the primary cause of encephalopathy and can be illustrated by citing a few examples from the wide variety of causes:

  • Hepatic (liver) encephalopathy (brain swelling with herniation, coma, death)
  • Metabolic encephalopathy (irritability, lethargy, depression, tremors; occasionally, coma or death)
  • Anoxic encephalopathy (wide range of complications, from none in short-term anoxia to personality changes, severe brain damage to death in long-term anoxic events)
  • Uremic encephalopathy (lethargy, hallucinations, stupor, muscle twitching, seizures, death)
  • Hashimoto's encephalopathy (confusion, heat intolerance, dementia)
  • Wernicke's encephalopathy (mental confusion, memory loss, decreased ability to move eyes)
  • Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or "mad cow disease" (ataxia, dementia, and myoclonus or muscle twitching without any rhythm or pattern)
  • Shigella encephalopathy (headache, stiff neck, delirium, seizures, coma)
  • Infectious causes of pediatric encephalopathy (irritability, poor feeding, hypotonia or floppy baby syndrome, seizures, death)

The best way to understand potential complications is to discuss these with the diagnosing doctor who can discuss the possible problems associated with the specific cause(s) of the type of encephalopathy.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/29/2015

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