FAQ

Acute Liver Failure

What is acute liver failure?

Acute liver failure is a rare condition. It happens when your liver suddenly begins to lose its ability to function. This often happens right after an overdose of medicine or poisoning. Chronic liver failure happens over a long stretch of time.

What causes acute liver failure?

Acute liver failure can be caused by hepatitis. It can also be caused by taking medicines such as acetaminophen. Autoimmune disease and Wilson’s disease can also cause acute liver failure. In some cases, the cause for the disease is unknown.

Who is at risk for acute liver failure?

Taking too much acetaminophen causes most cases of acute liver failure. Acetaminophen is a painkiller found in many over-the-counter and prescription medicines. There are also other things that can lead to acute liver failure. Diseases such as hepatitis and Wilson’s disease, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, and herpes simplex virus also increase your risk for acute liver failure.

What are the symptoms of acute liver failure?

If you have acute liver failure, you may have symptoms such as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Discomfort on your right side, just below your ribs
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea

As the disease gets worse, however, you may also become confused and extremely sleepy. Other symptoms include bruising or bleeding easily, vomiting blood, and a buildup of fluid in your abdomen.

How is acute liver failure diagnosed?

Liver failure is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Your healthcare provider will probably do an evaluation to find out if you have a history of drug use, exposure to toxins, and to check for signs of hepatitis. These signs include jaundice, fatigue, and abdominal pain. Your healthcare provider will also test your mental alertness. He or she may also do blood tests. These tests will check your liver enzymes, bilirubin levels, and prothrombin time. Prothrombin time measures your blood’s ability to thicken (coagulate).

Hepatic encephalopathy

What is a hepatic encephalopathy?

Hepatic Encephalopathy, sometimes referred to as portosystemic encephalopathy or PSE, is a condition that causes temporary worsening of brain function in people with advanced liver disease. When your liver is damaged it can no longer remove toxic substances from your blood.

How do you diagnose hepatic encephalopathy?

Several tests are used to diagnose hepatic encephalopathy. A complete blood count checks your red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. A low red blood cell count indicates blood loss and a lack of oxygen. Blood tests may also be used to check your blood levels of sodium, potassium, and ammonia.

Does protein increase the risk of hepatic encephalopathy?

In the past, it was thought that consumption of protein even at normal levels increased the risk of hepatic encephalopathy. This has been shown to be incorrect. Furthermore, many people with chronic liver disease are malnourished and require adequate protein to maintain a stable body weight.

Can cirrhosis cause hepatic encephalopathy?

Approximately 70% of individuals with cirrhosis may develop symptoms of Hepatic Encephalopathy. In some cases, Hepatic Encephalopathy is a short-term problem that can be corrected. It may also occur as part of a chronic problem from liver disease that gets worse over time.