What is acute liver failure?

Fulminant hepatitis causes your liver to fail quickly. Once symptoms appear, life-threatening liver failure can develop within days or weeks. The only way to prevent fulminant hepatitis is to prevent hepatitis in the first place.

Learn more about living-donor liver transplants at UPMC.

Hepatitis Symptoms

There are different types of hepatitis, and each is typically spread through bodily fluids such as stool or blood. The best way to prevent the disease is to avoid contact with anyone infected. Hepatitis can lead to the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Weak appetite
  • Jaundice
  • Dark urine
  • Nausea and vomiting

If you experience any of these symptoms and think you could have been exposed to hepatitis, talk to your doctor about being tested. Diagnosing and treating the disease early can prevent the development of fulminant hepatitis, which could potentially lead to acute liver failure.

Severe liver failure causes the same symptoms as hepatitis, along with:

  • Confusion
  • Extreme irritability
  • Altered consciousness (potentially leading to unconsciousness or coma)
  • Blood clots
  • Buildup of fluid in the abdomen, arms, and legs

What Happens If I Am Diagnosed with Fulminant Hepatic Failure?

If your liver fails, you must be hospitalized until your condition stabilizes. If you are under 40 years old, you have a better chance of recovery than an older adult.

If your condition does not stabilize, a liver transplant will be necessary. With more than 14,000 people on the waiting list for a liver in the United States, it could take years for an organ to become available. Meanwhile, it’s likely your liver and your health will decline until it is too late.

Living-Donor Liver Transplants

Since the onset of fulminate hepatic failure can happen very quickly, a living-donor liver transplant is the best option. In a living-donor liver transplant, a piece of a healthy donor liver is transplanted into the recipient to replace the failing liver. Both livers regenerate within eight to 10 weeks.

This means someone in need of a liver transplant can be proactive in finding a donor before their condition worsens.

By preventing viral hepatitis in the first place, you can avoid fulminant hepatic failure and the need for a liver transplant. But if your disease progresses and a liver transplant is your only hope, it’s important to know your options, including living-donor liver transplantation at UPMC.

Learn more about living-donor liver transplants at UPMC.