Major complications of acute and chronic liver disease

S. J. Munoz, W. C. Maddrey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Many advances have been made in the understanding, diagnosis, and management of severe complications of liver disease. The pathogenesis of hepatic encephalopathy remains a challenge. Several toxins including ammonia, mercaptans, short-chain fatty acids, benzodiazepine-like substances, GABA-like substances, and impaired glutamatergic neurotransmission are at the top of the list of candidates. Use of the benzodiazepine antagonists is an experimental but promising new therapy in patients with hepatic encephalopathy. In patients with cirrhosis, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP) remains a common and highly lethal complication. The diagnosis of SBP is based on the polymorphonuclear cell count in the ascites and confirmed by culture of ascitic fluid. Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment has reduced mortality of SBP from greater than 90 per cent to 30 to 50 percent. The appearance of cerebral edema in severe acute hepatocellular failure is associated with high mortality and conventional neurologic signs may be unreliable indicators of brain swelling. Current management of cerebral edema in fulminant hepatocellular failure may include early placement of an extradural sensor for continuous monitoring of intracranial pressure, so that short-term measures can be instituted making later liver transplantation safer. Coagulopathy remains a serious problem in patients with liver disease. Exchange plasmapheresis is a promising short-term adjuvant therapy. However, liver transplantation should be considered the definitive treatment for fulminant hepatocellular failure. The gastroenterologist often encounters multiorgan failure in patients with severe liver disease. Liver transplantation is now an important therapeutic consideration in almost every patient with severe, irreversible liver disease. Efforts should be targeted to early diagnosis of irreversible disease and coordination of patient care with a liver transplant center.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-287
Number of pages23
JournalGastroenterology Clinics of North America
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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