A recent open-label, randomized prospective study (Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2014; 12: 1003-08) indicates that probiotics (VSL#3) can be effective as primary prophylaxis of hepatic encephalopathy (HE) in at risk patients with cirrhosis.
While cirrhosis-related HE is an uncommon problem in pediatric gastroenterology/hepatology, there are few effective therapeutic options. This study randomly assigned the 160 patients to groups given probiotics three times daily or to controls (no test article). These patients were studied extensively including psychometric analysis, glucose hydrogen breath tests, critical flicker fusion, and lactulose hydrogen breath tests to assess orocecal transit time.
Key result: Three months of probiotics reduced HE scores. Seven probiotic subjects developed overt HE which was significantly lower than the 14 patients in the control group (P<.05).
Bottomline: Probiotics may reduce the development of overt HE in patients with cirrhosis.