Indian Journal of Critical Care Medicine
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Year : 2012  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1--7

Structured approach to treat patients with acute liver failure: A hepatic emergency


Department of Hepatology, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Ramesh Kumar
Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, Sector D1, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi - 110 070
India
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DOI: 10.4103/0972-5229.94409

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Acute liver failure (ALF) is a condition of acute hepatic emergency where rapid deterioration of hepatocyte function leads to hepatic encephalopathy, coagulopathy, cerebral edema (CE), infection and multi-organ dysfunction syndrome resulting in a high mortality rate. Urgent liver transplantation is the standard of care for most of these patients in Western countries. However, in India, access to liver transplantation is severely limited and, hence, the management is largely based on intensive medical care. With earlier recognition of disease, better understanding of pathophysiology and improved intensive care, ALF patients have shown a significant improvement in spontaneous survival. An evidence base for practice for supportive care is still lacking; however, intensive organ support as well as control of infection and CE are likely to be key to the successful outcome in this acute and potentially reversible condition without any sequel. A structured approach to decision making about intensive care is important in each case. Unlike in Western countries where acetamenophen is the most common cause of ALF, the role of a specific agent, such as N-acetylcysteine, is limited in India. Ammonia-lowering therapy is still in an evolving phase. The current review highlights the important medical management issues in patients with ALF in general as well as the management of major complications associated with ALF. We performed a MEDLINE search using combinations of the key words such as acute liver failure, intensive treatment of acute liver failure and fulminant hepatic failure. We reviewed the relevant publications with regard to intensive care of patients with ALF.






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