How is liver failure treated?

Liver disease and liver failure are usually treated by specialists called hepatologists.

Treatment of liver failure depends on whether it is acute or chronic. For chronic liver failure, treatment includes changes to the diet and lifestyle, including:

  • Avoiding alcohol or medications that can harm the liver
  • Eating less of certain foods, including red meat, cheese and eggs
  • Weight loss and control of metabolic risk factors, including high blood pressure and diabetes
  • Cutting down on salt in the diet (including not adding salt to food)

For acute (sudden) liver failure, treatment includes:

  • Intravenous (IV) fluids to maintain blood pressure;
  • Medications such as laxatives or enemas to help flush toxins (poisons) out;
  • Blood glucose (sugar) monitoring; glucose is given to the patient if blood sugar drops.

You may also receive a blood transfusion if you are bleeding excessively, or a breathing tube to help you breathe.

In both acute and chronic liver failure, the doctor may recommend a liver transplant. Before transplantation, doctors thoroughly screen transplant candidates to make sure a new organ might help them before placing them on organ waiting lists.

During the transplantation surgery, a healthy liver from a living or deceased donor replaces a damaged or diseased liver. Some transplant centers are able to replace a damaged liver with a portion of a healthy liver because the liver can regenerate, or grow back.

What complications are associated with liver failure?

Liver failure can affect many of your body’s organs. Acute liver failure can cause such complications as infection, electrolyte deficiencies and bleeding. Without treatment, both acute and chronic liver failure may eventually result in death.

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