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Liver Failure

Liver failure occurs if liver damage is so severe that the liver cannot function. Liver failure may require hospitalization.

Liver failure often comes on gradually. Hepatitis B and C, heavy alcohol consumption, cirrhosis, malnutrition, and liver cancer are the most common reasons for the liver to be damaged beyond repair.

Acute liver failure can occur rapidly, within 48 hours, and requires urgent medical attention.  Acetaminophen overdose, hepatitis A, B, and E, reactions to medications, and ingestion of poisonous mushrooms are the most common causes of acute liver failure.


Early symptoms of liver failure are nonspecific and easily confused with other causes: 

  • Nausea;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Fatigue;
  • Diarrhea.

As liver function slows down and declines more severe symptoms may occur:

  • Jaundice;
  • Bleeding easily;
  • Abdominal pain;
  • Mental disorientation or confusion;
  • Sleepiness;
  • Coma.


Liver failure can be diagnosed by blood tests, imaging tests (such as a CT scan), or liver biopsy.


Acute liver failure can be treated if detected early and treated as soon as possible. The liver may recover without further medical intervention. Unfortunately, liver failure may require a liver transplant.


  • Swelling in the brain (cerebral edema): pressure increases inside the brain, causing displacement of brain tissue (a hernia) and lack of oxygen;
  • Bleeding disorders: blood clots more slowly due to the lack of nutrients caused by liver failure;
  • Infection;

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