Liver failure or fulminant hepatic failure is a condition where a person with no preexisting liver disease develops severe liver dysfunction over a matter of days or weeks. Fulminant liver failure is associated with a high mortality rate and is a clear indication for liver transplantation.
The cause of liver failure is quite varied but includes medications, certain infections, trauma, alcohol, disruptions in proper flow of blood to the liver, and unfortunately, there are causes of liver failure that never had a clear identifiable cause.
Patients with liver failure rapidly develop abnormal liver chemistries associated with signs of liver insufficiency associated with the development of ascites [fluid in the abdomen], fatigue, abdominal pain, and most importantly, the development of hepatic encephalopathy, which is a confusion state that is associated with severe liver dysfunction.
Patients with suspected liver failure need to be transferred immediately to a liver center specializing in transplantation where the best therapies can be offered.