Acute liver failure


Acute liver failure occurs when your liver rapidly loses its ability to function. More commonly, liver failure develops slowly over the course of years. But in acute liver failure, liver failure develops in a matter of days.

Acute liver failure can cause many complications, including excessive bleeding and increasing pressure in the brain. Another term for acute liver failure is fulminant hepatic failure.

Acute liver failure is a medical emergency that requires hospitalization. Some causes of acute liver failure can be reversed with treatment. But in other situations, a liver transplant may be the only cure for acute liver failure.


Signs and symptoms of acute liver failure may include:

  • A yellowing of your skin and eyeballs (jaundice)
  • Pain in the upper right area of your abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • A general sense of not feeling well
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Sleepiness

When to see a doctor

Acute liver failure can develop quickly in an otherwise healthy person, and it is life-threatening. If you or someone you know suddenly develops a yellowing of the eyes or skin, tenderness in the upper abdomen or any unusual changes in mental state, personality or behavior, seek medical attention right away.


Acute liver failure occurs when liver cells are damaged significantly and no longer able to function. Acute liver failure has many potential causes, including:

  • Acetaminophen overdose.Taking too much acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) is the most common cause of acute liver failure in the United States. Acute liver failure can occur if you take a very large dose of acetaminophen all at once, or it can occur if you take higher-than-recommended doses every day for several days, especially in people with chronic
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