Medical Definition of Encephalopathy

  • Medical Author:
    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.

Encephalopathy: Disease, damage, or malfunction of the brain. In general, encephalopathy is manifested by an altered mental state that is sometimes accompanied by physical changes. Although numerous causes of encephalopathy are known, the majority of cases arise from infection, liver damage, anoxia, or kidney failure. The term encephalopathy is very broad and, in most cases, is preceded by various terms that describe the reason, cause, or special conditions of the patient that leads to brain malfunction. For example, anoxic encephalopathy means brain damage due to lack of oxygen, and hepatic encephalopathy means brain malfunction due to liver disease. Depending upon the cause and severity of the condition, symptoms may range from mild alterations in mental status to severe and potentially fatal manifestations such as dementia, seizures, and coma.

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Reviewed on 12/21/2018

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