Renal function and cognitive impairment in patients with liver cirrhosis

Evangelos Kalaitzakis*, Einar Björnsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Objective. Cognitive impairment is a common problem in patients with liver cirrhosis. Its pathogenesis is multifactorial and ammonia is considered to play a central role. Renal function has been shown to be important for ammonia metabolism in cirrhosis. Although renal dysfunction is common in cirrhotic patients, its effect on cognitive function is largely unexplored. Material and methods. A total of 128 consecutive cirrhotic patients were prospectively evaluated for the presence of cognitive dysfunction according to the West-Haven criteria and by means of two psychometric tests. Serum creatinine, sodium and potassium as well as plasma ammonia concentrations were assessed. Glomerular filtration rate was also measured by 51Cr- EDTA clearance in a subgroup of patients. Results. Forty-one patients (32%) were found to have cognitive dysfunction (clinical evaluation and/or psychometric tests). Sixteen patients (13%) found with serum creatinine levels above reference values had cognitive dysfunction more frequently than patients with creatinine within the normal range (69% versus 31%; p=0.001), but did not differ in aetiology or severity of cirrhosis (p>0.1). Patients with loop diuretics versus without did not differ in creatinine values (p>0.1). Multivariate analysis showed that cognitive dysfunction was related to hospital admission at inclusion in the study, international normalized ratio and serum creatinine (p<0.05 for all), but not to potassium or sodium levels. Plasma ammonia concentration was related to serum creatinine (r=0.26, p=0.004) and the glomerular filtration rate (r=-0.44, p=0.023). Conclusions. Renal dysfunction seems to be related to cognitive impairment in patients with liver cirrhosis and might be implicated in the pathogenesis of hepatic encephalopathy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1238-1244
Number of pages7
JournalScandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Other keywords

  • Ammonia
  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Number connection test
  • Renal function


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