People with acute liver failure are often treated in the intensive care unit of a hospital —and when possible, in a facility that can perform a liver transplant if necessary. Your doctor may try to treat the liver damage itself, but in many cases, treatment involves controlling complications and giving your liver time to heal.
Treatments for acute liver failure
Acute liver failure treatments may include:
- Medications to reverse poisoning. Acute liver failure caused by acetaminophen overdose or mushroom poisoning is treated with drugs that can reverse the effects of the toxin and may reduce liver damage.
- Liver transplant. When acute liver failure can't be reversed, the only treatment may be a liver transplant. During a liver transplant, a surgeon removes your damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy liver from a donor.
Treatments for complications
Your doctor will work to control signs and symptoms you're experiencing and try to prevent complications caused by acute liver failure. This care may include:
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- Relieving pressure caused by excess fluid in the brain. Cerebral edema caused by acute liver failure can increase pressure on your brain. Medications can help reduce the fluid buildup in your brain.
- Screening for infections. Your medical team will take periodic samples of your blood and urine to be tested for infection. If your doctor suspects that you have an infection, you'll receive medications to treat the infection.
- Preventing severe bleeding. Your doctor can give you medications to reduce the risk of bleeding. If you lose a lot of blood, your doctor may perform tests to find the source of the blood loss, and you may require blood transfusions.
- Goldberg E, et al. Acute liver failure in adults: Etiology, clinical manifestations and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 31, 2014.
- Goldberg E, et al. Acute liver failure in adults: Management and prognosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 31, 2014.
- An introduction to liver care. American Liver Foundation. http://www.liverfoundation.org/education/downloads/. Accessed March 31, 2014.
- Acute liver failure. National Institutes of Health. http://livertox.nih.gov/Phenotypes_fail.html. Accessed March 31, 2014.
- Bernal W, et al. Acute liver failure. New England Journal of Medicine. 2013;369:2525.
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