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Category: Gastroenterology | Hepatology

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Liver Failure overview

Published: July 13, 2009. Updated: August 09, 2009

Liver failure can be chronic (long term) or acute (sudden onset).

Acute liver failure

Acute liver failure is usually associated with exposure to

  • Toxins
  • Drug induced
  • Metabolic diseases
  • Viral causes

The rapid onset of liver failure is often due to necrosis.

Chronic liver diseases include:

  • Cholestatic jaundice
  • Chronic viral hepatitis
  • Autoimmune chronic hepatitis
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Vascular diseases
  • Budd-Chiari
  • Veno-occlusive disorder
  • Wilson's disease
  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
  • Hemachromatosis
  • Reye's syndrome
  • Cystic fibrosis

Symptoms and signs

  • Jaundice
  • Uncontrollable Encephalopathy
  • Relentless Ascites
  • Portal Hypertension (high blood pressure in the liver vessels)
  • Formation of varices
  • Hepatorenal syndrome
  • Hepatopulmonary syndrome
  • Poor liver function demonstrated in changes shown in blood tests
  • Vomiting of blood, bloody or black stools (liver disease may cause intestinal bleeding)
  • Severe and uncontrollable generalized itching
  • Coagulopathy
  • Tumor confined to the liver


Acute liver failure is treated in an intensive care unit with aggressive supportive measures. Chronic liver failure may require liver transplantation.

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