This article is reviewed, corrected, and approved by: Dr. Benjamin McLean M.D. | FCPS | FRCP | MPH

Metabolic encephalopathy is a condition characterized by dysfunction or impairment of brain function that arises from metabolic abnormalities in the body. "Neurological disruption" is a term used to describe various neurological symptoms caused by disruptions in the body's metabolic processes. Metabolic encephalopathy involves a group of symptoms caused by metabolic abnormalities that impact brain function.

What is Metabolic Encephalopathy?

The human body uses a complex system to turn the food you eat into energy and carry out important tasks. This system is called metabolism. When there is an imbalance or dysfunction in these metabolic processes, it can affect the normal functioning of the brain.

Metabolic Encephalopathy Causes

Metabolic encephalopathy can be caused by various reasons, including if your liver or kidney is not working properly, electrolyte imbalances, hormonal disturbances, infections, toxins, medications, and nutritional deficiencies. Metabolic encephalopathy can lead to permanent brain damage due to structural injuries visible in MRI scans of severe uremia or acute hepatic failure.

The common causes of acute metabolic encephalopathy are-

1. Liver disease (hepatic encephalopathy):

  • Cirrhosis
  • Hepatitis
  • Liver failure

2. Kidney abnormalities (uremic encephalopathy)

3. Electrolyte imbalances:

  • Hyponatremia (low sodium levels and high sodium levels)
  • Hypocalcemia (low-high calcium levels)
  • Hypomagnesemia (low magnesium levels)

4. Endocrine disorders:

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hyperglycemic hyperosmolar state (HHS)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies:
  • Vitamin E, C, B1, B3, Vitamin B12
  • Thiamine

5. Medications and toxins:

  • Alcohol intoxication or withdrawal
  • Sedatives and tranquilizers
  • Overdose of certain medications
  • Exposure to heavy metals (lead, mercury)

6. Infections:

  • Sepsis
  • Meningitis
  • Encephalitis

7. Metabolic disorders:

  • Mitochondrial disorders
  • Wilson's disease (copper metabolism disorder)
  • Porphyria (a disorder of heme synthesis)

Metabolic Encephalopathy Symptoms

Confusion, and altered consciousness are some of the symptoms. Here a woman holding a picture of question mark against her face. Credits: ReviewsFellas©

Metabolic encephalopathy is a condition that arises from metabolic abnormalities in the body, resulting in dysfunction or impairment of brain function. The symptoms experienced with this condition may differ and depend on the severity and underlying cause.

However, the following are some common warning signs:

  • Confusion

Patients with metabolic encephalopathy often experience confusion or disorientation. They may have difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating, or remembering things.

  • Altered consciousness

This can range from mild drowsiness or lethargy to more severe states of stupor or coma. The level of consciousness can fluctuate over time.

  • Cognitive impairment

Metabolic encephalopathy can lead to cognitive function impairment, affecting abilities like attention, solving problems, and decision-making. Individuals may experience challenges with tasks that need mental focus and concentration.

  • Behavioral changes

Patients may exhibit changes in behavior, including agitation, irritability, restlessness, or even aggression. They may also display personality changes that are out of character.

  • Motor abnormalities

Metabolic encephalopathy can lead to various motor disturbances. These may include muscle twitches, tremors, myoclonus (sudden, brief muscle jerks), or abnormal movements.

  • Speech and language difficulties

Some people may have difficulties expressing themselves or selecting appropriate words (aphasia). They may have unclear or unintelligible speech.

  • Coordination problems

Lack of coordination and unsteady gait (ataxia) can be observed in some cases. Patients may have difficulty with balance and fine motor skills.

  • Seizures

Metabolic encephalopathy can trigger seizures or convulsions, which may manifest as jerking movements, loss of consciousness, or unusual sensations.

  • Sensory abnormalities

Some individuals may experience sensory changes, such as altered vision, hearing, or sensation. They may perceive things differently or have sensory distortions.

Characteristic Features of Metabolic Encephalopathy

The word "Delirium" is written under a ripped paper. Credits: ReviewsFellas©

Metabolic encephalopathy can manifest with a variety of characteristic features that help distinguish it from other neurological conditions. Symptoms and treatment can vary based on the underlying cause and severity of the illness.

Here are some characteristic features commonly associated with metabolic encephalopathy:

Acute onset

Acute Metabolic encephalopathy icd 10 often presents with a sudden onset of symptoms, typically within a short period of time. This acute onset distinguishes it from chronic neurodegenerative conditions that progress gradually over time.

Fluctuating course

The symptoms of metabolic encephalopathy can fluctuate, meaning they may come and go or vary in severity throughout the course of the condition. This fluctuation can occur within a single day or over a longer period of time.

Altered level of consciousness

Patients with metabolic encephalopathy may experience a spectrum of consciousness changes, ranging from mild confusion and disorientation to more severe states of stupor or coma. The level of consciousness may fluctuate or remain consistently altered.


Delirium is a common feature of metabolic encephalopathy. It refers to a state of acute confusion and disorientation, often accompanied by rapid changes in attention and cognition. Delirium can manifest as restlessness, agitation, hallucinations, or delusions.

Cognitive impairment

Acute Metabolic encephalopathy ICD-10 can result in cognitive dysfunction, affecting various aspects of cognition, such as memory, attention, executive function, and information processing. Patients may have difficulty concentrating, solving problems, or organizing their thoughts.

Behavioral changes

Patients suffering from metabolic encephalopathy may demonstrate unusual behavioral changes. These changes can include agitation, irritability, aggression, apathy, or emotional instability.

Motor abnormalities

Motor disturbances are often observed in metabolic encephalopathy. These can range from subtle muscle twitches and tremors to more pronounced jerking movements (myoclonus) and Ataxia.


Seizures can occur in metabolic encephalopathy, particularly in cases where there is significant metabolic derangement. Convulsions, loss of consciousness, and abnormal sensations are possible symptoms of seizures.

Multifactorial etiology

Metabolic encephalopathy can have multiple underlying causes, including liver or kidney dysfunction, electrolyte imbalances, hormonal abnormalities, infections, toxins, medications, and nutritional deficiencies.

Treatment Options for Metabolic Encephalopathy

To improve brain function, the goal of treating metabolic encephalopathy ICD 10 is to identify its root cause and restore metabolic balance. The treatment plan will differ based on the root cause, as each cause demands specific interventions.

Here are some general treatment options and how they may differ based on the underlying cause:

Metabolic Abnormalities Correction Therapy

Metabolic encephalopathy icd 10 often occurs due to imbalances in electrolytes, glucose, or other essential nutrients. In such cases, the treatment involves correcting these imbalances. For example, administering intravenous fluids, electrolyte replacement, or glucose infusions and therapy could be used.

Management of Organ Dysfunction

If someone has problems with their liver or kidneys, metabolic encephalopathy can happen. So your bodily organs maintain is essential.

Identification and Treatment of Infections

Infections can lead to metabolic encephalopathy, and addressing the infection is crucial. To combat the infection, the treatment plan entails pinpointing its origin and providing suitable antibiotics or antiviral medication to regulate it.

Removal of Toxins

If metabolic encephalopathy is caused by exposure to toxins, treatment will involve removing or neutralizing the toxic substance. This can include measures such as decontamination, activated charcoal administration, or specific antidotes depending on the toxin involved.

Medication Adjustments

Certain medications can contribute to metabolic encephalopathy. In such cases, the treatment plan may involve adjusting or discontinuing the medications responsible for the metabolic disturbances. This should be done under medical supervision to ensure the safe management of the underlying condition for which the medications were prescribed.

Nutritional Support

Nutritional deficiencies, such as thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency, can cause metabolic encephalopathy. In these cases, treatment will involve providing sufficient nutritional support and adding vitamin and mineral supplementation to correct the deficiencies.

Supportive Care

Supportive care is important in managing metabolic encephalopathy regardless of the underlying cause. This may include measures such as maintaining a calm and quiet environment, ensuring proper hydration and nutrition, monitoring vital signs, and providing physical assistance and safety measures as needed.


Metabolic disruptions in critical conditions with multiple organ failures can impact brain function. Metabolic encephalopathy is a condition that affects the brain. Symptoms include confusion, drowsiness, seizures, or even coma.

The relationship between organ failure and brain dysfunction leads to sympathetic overdrive and stress on other organs. Knowing the causes, symptoms of metabolic encephalopathy will help anyone to get better treatment in time.