Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
People with acute liver failure are treated in the intensive care unit of a hospital. When it's possible, your doctor will work to treat your acute liver failure. But in many cases, the 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.
- Liver transplant. Acute liver failure can't be reversed in many cases. In these situations, 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:
- Relieving 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 signs of infection. If your doctor suspects that you have an infection, you'll receive medications to treat the infection.
- Preventing severe bleeding. People with acute liver failure often develop bleeding ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract. Your doctor can give you medications to reduce the risk of bleeding. If you lose a lot of blood, you may require blood transfusions.
- Polson J, et al. AASLD position paper: The management of acute liver failure. Hepatology. 2005;41:1179.
- Fontana RJ. Acute liver failure. In: Feldman M, et al. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-6189-2..X0001-7--TOP&isbn=978-1-4160-6189-2&about=true&uniqId=229935664-2192. Accessed May 27, 2011.
- An introduction to liver care. American Liver Foundation. http://www.liverfoundation.org/downloads/alf_download_29.pdf. Accessed May 27, 2011.