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Treatment for Acute Liver Failure

by Brad McHargue
  • Overview

    Acute liver failure is a medical emergency that occurs when the liver fails rapidly over the course of just a few days, as opposed to over the course of a few years. It is highly serious and can result in serious complications, including death. Treatment involves a variety of measures to reverse any damage that may have occurred and prevent further complications.
  • Symptoms

    One of the more common symptoms of acute liver failure is jaundice, which is a yellowing of the eyeballs and skin. This is typically accompanied by a feeling of tenderness in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, nausea and vomiting, fatigue and disorientation. You may also have problems with concentration. If you experience any of these symptoms, consult a doctor immediately, as not treating acute liver failure will result in death.
  • Treatment

    Treating acute liver failure depends on the severity, progression and underlying cause. If the liver failure is caused by acetaminophen poisoning or the poison from certain mushrooms, medications will be given to treat the effects of the toxins. A major problem associated with acute liver failure are the myriad complications that can occur, and as such treatment is often focused on treating these. For example, if acute liver failure causes an increase of fluid in the brain, which in turn results in excess pressure, medications are given to help reduce it. If internal bleeding occurs, medications will be given to stop this as well. In some cases, a blood transfusion may be necessary. In the end, it is up to your doctor to determine the best options for treatment. In serious cases where the damage cannot be reversed, the only effective remedy is a liver transplant. According to an study found in the July 2009 issue of the journal Liver Transplantation, several factors affect the effectiveness of a liver transplant, including patients on life support and liver failure caused by antiepileptic drugs. The study found that these patients did not fare as well post-transplant.

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