Etiologies of acute liver failure

William M. Lee, Emmanuel Seremba

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Acute liver failure remains a unique syndrome that results from massive loss of hepatocytes or hepatocyte function due to a variety of etiologies: viruses, drugs, toxins and other genetic and autoimmune conditions. The resulting clinical picture is remarkably similar across the different etiologies, reflecting common patterns of response of the innate immune system and the resulting inflammatory response. This review highlights developments in the delineation of etiologies of this relatively rare condition. RECENT FINDINGS: The contribution of different etiologies to the overall picture varies by country. Europe and North America demonstrate a large proportion of cases due to acetaminophen and to idiosyncratic drug reactions, whereas reports from emerging countries in Asia and Africa are more likely to feature viral illnesses, particularly hepatitis B and E. Recent studies have suggested ever more exotic etiologies, new drugs and viruses. SUMMARY: A careful search for the cause of acute liver failure in each case is of value in determining whether there are specific antidotes available and what the prognosis might be.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)198-201
Number of pages4
JournalCurrent opinion in critical care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2008


  • Chemotherapy
  • Drug-induced liver injury
  • Fulminant hepatic failure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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