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Encephalopathy (cont.)

Encephalopathy Diagnosis

The diagnosis of encephalopathy begins with the history provided by the patient, family, or friends. The health care professional will have a better understanding about potential causes of the encephalopathy based upon information regarding symptoms, for example, how quickly they appeared, how long they have been present, whether they wax and wane, or whether there is a progressive downward course. Past history of medical illness, intentional or unintentional ingestions, prescribed medications, chemical exposure, and infections may provide clues as to why the patient has encephalopathy.

Testing will depend upon the patient's history and physical examination that lead the health care professional to look for potential diagnoses. Routine blood tests such as a complete blood count (CBC) may provide information about possible infection, anemia, or vitamin deficiency. Chemistry tests can evaluate electrolytes, glucose levels, kidney function, and liver function. Other tests may be ordered for different types of vitamin deficiencies. If appropriate, drug and alcohol screening may be suggested.

Imaging studies such as X-rays, computerized tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be useful depending upon the clinical situation.

Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) may be helpful to look for infection, bleeding, and inflammation. The cerebrospinal fluid can also be analyzed for abnormal proteins, chemicals, and cells.

Other testing may be appropriate depending upon the clinical situation and the suspicions of the health care practitioner.

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