The therapeutic efficacy of orally administered branched-chain amino acids in patients with liver cirrhosis and chronic encephalopathy was examined in a double blind, randomised crossover study. Seven patients with manifest hepatic cirrhosis and encephalopathy of six months' duration or longer ingested 30 g branched-chain amino acids or placebo during two 14-day periods. Psychometric tests and electroencephalograms were used to evaluate cerebral function. Neither clinical observations nor psychometric testing or electroencephalogram indicated a significant difference in the patients' response to branched-chain amino acids as compared with placebo. In four patients given branched-chain amino acids for longer periods (five to 22 weeks), psychometric tests also remained unchanged. The plasma concentrations of these acids after oral intake increased significantly, demonstrating adequate absorption. Basal plasma amino acid concentrations were unchanged, however, after branched-chain amino acid therapy. No side-effects were seen, which indicates that these amino acids are well tolerated as an extra protein supply in patients with chronic hepatic encephalopathy. As compared with placebo, however, no effect of branched-chain amino acids on the encephalopathy could be detected.
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