Acute Liver Failure

by Michael_Koger

Acute liver failure is an occurrence of inadequate function of the human hepatic system from a variety of possibilities.

In these patients, the clinical signs and symptoms have usually taken place over a span of not more than 26 weeks. In fact, many of them have developed the abnormalities during recent days or months. Very few of these clients have any prior history of liver disease. In any event, it is a deadly medical condition which requires hospitalization in the intensive care unit as well as transplant of that organ as soon as possible [1, 2].

The most common cause of this illness in the United States is drug ingestion whether intentional or not. Specifically, acetaminophen is the agent which leads to the situation in the majority of these cases. Whereas treatment with N-acetylcysteine is very beneficial for the treatment of excessive intake of that agent, many physicians will initiate that therapy regardless of the medication responsible for the illness [1, 2].

Responsible Agents

Nevertheless, many other pharmaceutical products may lead to this condition.  These include a variety of antimicrobial drugs, anticonvulsants, and medications to treat other diseases such as those of the thyroid gland.  Herbal products can precipitate it as well.  It is no surprise, therefore, that the removal of some medications from the market has taken place because of these effects [1, 2].

Diseases as a Cause for Acute Liver Failure

There are also many illnesses which can predispose a patient to this.  These include Wilson disease in which accumulation of copper in the body occurs.  Viral hepatitis and autoimmune disorders may lead to it as well.  However, longstanding alcohol intake and the development of alcoholic hepatitis is not a cause though the two conditions resemble each other [1].

Autoimmune hepatitis may uncommonly lead to acute liver failure.  Moreover, other viral infections such as cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, varicella-zoster virus, and herpes simplex types one and two may also trigger this medical condition.


Acute liver failure is a global public health problem.  Physicians must know what drugs and other illnesses trigger it, and the availability of organ transplant remains an issue.


  1. Hanouneh, M., Garber, A., Tavill, A. et al.  (2016).  A tale of two sisters with liver disease.  Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 83, 109-115.
  2. United States National Library of Medicine.  National Institutes of Health.  (2016).  Acute liver failure.  Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  3. The photo is of a library at the Centers for Disease Control and is reprinted with permission from that organization.


The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact their physician for advice.

Updated: 03/01/2016, Michael_Koger
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login

You might also like

How to React to and Help a Loved One with Cancer

Dealing with cancer? Learn how to react, treat and care for a loved one when ...

Dry Flaky Skin on Face, Treatments and Homemade Remedies

Dry flaky skin can be a painful experience. Itchy dry patches on face can occ...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...