Liver or hepatic failure, usually a chronic, but sometimes even an acute disorder is a life-jeopardizing condition, requiring urgent medical care. It initially sets in by degenerating small parts of the liver, followed by the deteriorating organ.
The vital functions of the liver, including the synthesis of bile, cholesterol and plasma proteins are greatly hampered in the process. The excretion of bilirubin through stools and urine, and regular enzyme activation are also affected. Liver failure is a serious condition requiring immediate diagnosis and medication.
Liver failure can be typically divided into acute and chronic failure. Acute liver failure is mainly caused by poisoning, induced by mushrooms or drugs like acetaminophen.
The Occurrence and Symptoms
Chronic liver failure occurs due to several reasons, including infections by various pathogens and viruses, genetics, cancer and immunological defects. Infectious agents, which are spread through body fluids, attack the liver, causing inflammation.
Besides that, several immunological abnormalities like primary biliary cholangitis could play a role in inducing liver failure indirectly, by acting on organs that are functionally related to the liver. Patients suffering from genetic disorders like Wilson’s disease also manifest with signs of liver problems. Cancer, alcohol toxicity, diabetes and severe obesity are the other factors causing liver failure.
Symptoms of liver failure include signs of liver problems like jaundice, manifested by the yellowing of the skin and eyeballs, vomiting, abdominal pain and inflammation, anorexia, fluid retention and edema.
On the diagnostic front, clinicians mostly rely on the blood test results. A Prothrombin test is conducted to observe the duration of clotting. During liver failure, the Prothrombin time is prolonged since the time taken for the clotting mechanism is increased, owing to the dysfunction of the liver and its intrinsic mechanisms.
Besides, a computerized tomography (CT) scanning or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the abdominal region is taken to diagnose liver failure, once the patient manifests any signs of liver problems. A biopsy scan could also be undertaken for the same.
For the treatment of liver failure, artificial hepatic assistant devices are installed. These are similar to dialysis machines, which help in taking up the function of the kidneys. Besides, transplantation methods like hepatocyte transplant and complete liver transplant are also incorporated.
Hepatocyte transplant only involves the cells of the liver, thereby providing a transient solution, while complete liver transplant is a permanent solution, often following hepatocyte transplant.