Acute Liver Failure - Medical Malpractice LawyersLEGAL HELPLINE: ☎ 855 804 7125
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Acute Liver Failure - Medical Malpractice
While liver failure occurs generally over a long period of time, there are situations of acute liver failure that can occur in certain situations. It is a condition requiring immediate medical care because the failure can occur in as little as 2 days or forty eight hours. It is fortunately more rare than chronic liver failure because it is easily more deadly.
The causes of liver failure in general are the major viruses causing liver failure, particularly hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Long term alcohol consumption can contribute to getting liver failure in the absence of other risk factors. Cirrhosis of the liver for whatever cause can contribute to liver failure. An inherited condition of the liver called hemochromatosis can lead to liver failure and severe malnutrition can be a factor as well.
The causes of acute liver failure are often different from those things that cause chronic liver failure. These include Tylenol overdose (acetaminophen), which is generally cleared by the liver, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C can cause acute liver failure, primarily in children. Certain prescription or herbal drug concoctions can contribute to acute liver failure and those who consume poisonous mushrooms can suffer from acute liver failure.
The symptoms of liver failure can be very vague, especially in the beginning. The early symptoms include nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue and diarrhea. This can mimic the stomach flu or other illness and cannot be shown to be the beginnings of liver failure unless blood tests show damage to the liver. The main blood tests to do include the liver enzymes, SGPT and SGOT and a bilirubin test. An LDH test can be helpful as well.
The symptoms become more severe as the function of the liver fails even worse. These symptoms include easy bleeding and bruising, jaundice, a swollen abdomen from ascites, hepatic encephalopathy, which is confusion or a coma from elevated ammonia levels, fatigue and sleepy feelings and coma.
Liver failure can be diagnosed by examining the patient and getting a careful history. The abdomen will often be distended with fluid and liver function studies, such as an SGOT and SGPT are elevated. The bilirubin will often be elevated, contributing to jaundice. In acute liver failure, these symptoms and signs occur quickly over time, with the patient being extremely ill. They often need immediate hospitalization for treatment of liver failure.
If liver failure is caused by acetaminophen or Tylenol overdose, the amount of acetaminophen can be removed from the body using drugs that remove the drug, including N-acetyl cysteine or Mucomyst. Supportive measures can be given until the drug is out of the system and the liver begins to health itself. This is what is often done when viruses cause acute liver failure. A liver transplant can be given; however, it is difficult to find a matching liver in such a short time.
The best treatment of acute liver failure is prevention of the disease. You can prevent cirrhosis or hepatitis of the liver by getting a hepatitis vaccination or a dose of immunoglobulin if you are exposed to hepatitis A or hepatitis B. You need to eat a proper diet that contains a wide variety of foods. You need to drink alcohol in moderation and wash your hands frequently to avoid bloodborne or foodborne agents. Don't handle blood products or blood if you can at all help it. You need to keep your own personal toiletry items to yourself and not share them. Make sure conditions are sterile when you have a tattoo or body piercing. Use condoms whenever you have sex as this prevents bodily fluid transmission. Never share needles with another person if you are an IV drug user.LEGAL HELPLINE: ☎ 855 804 7125
The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here