Acute Liver Failure

Acute liver failure is a rapidly progressive, life-threatening condition which occurs when there is massive liver injury. The condition is characterised by coagulopathy (failure of the blood to clot) and encephalopathy (confusion or reduced level of consciousness) which occurs within days or weeks, usually preceded by a prodromal illness of nausea and vomiting. Common causes include paracetamol (acetaminophen) toxicity and viral hepatitis.

Patients with acute liver failure may initially appear relatively well, but can rapidly progress to develop multi-organ failure. Liver damage triggers massive inflammation, which drives organ failure. The key to a successful outcome rests in timely recognition, treatment and referral to a specialist centre for consideration of transplantation.