Liver Failure

Liver failure


Liver failure is when the liver stops working properly in part or in whole because it is diseased or injured. The liver has many important functions, including digesting food and processing and distributing nutrients. There are many kinds of liver diseases and conditions. Some, like hepatitis, are caused by viruses. Others can be the result of drugs or drinking too much alcohol. Long-lasting injury or scar tissue in the liver can cause cirrhosis. Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin, can be one sign of liver disease.

When liver failure occurs, a liver transplant is often performed. The donor for the transplant can be either deceased or living. Most livers for transplants come from people who have just died (deceased donor). During a deceased donor transplant, surgeons remove the person’s diseased or injured liver and replace it with the deceased donor’s liver. Adults typically receive the entire liver from a deceased donor. However, surgeons may split a deceased donor’s liver into two parts. The larger part may go to an adult, and the smaller part may go to a smaller adult or child. The part of the liver received grows to full size.

Sometimes a healthy living person will donate part of his or her liver, most often to a family member who is recommended for a liver transplant. This type of donor is called a living donor. During a living donor transplant, surgeons remove a part of the living donor’s healthy liver. Surgeons remove the diseased or injured liver and replace it with the part from the living donor. The living donor’s liver grows back to normal size soon after the surgery. The part of the liver that has been received also grows to normal size. Living donor transplants are less common than deceased donor transplants.

Most liver disease is chronic. The most common causes for adults needing a liver transplant is chronic liver failure resulting from a chronic disease such as alcoholic liver disease or fatty liver disease. Chronic liver failure from biliary atresia is the most common reason children need a liver transplant. People may also need a liver transplant due to acute liver failure. Acute liver failure happens suddenly. Acute liver failure is an uncommon condition most often caused by taking too much acetaminophen. Other causes of acute liver failure include viral hepatitis and toxins.

Adapted from National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD), Liver Disease, Liver Transplant athttps://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/liver-transplant