How is acute liver failure treated?
Treatment for acute liver failure depends on the underlying cause. If your health care provider thinks you took too much acetaminophen within the past several hours, he or she will probably give you activated charcoal. This will help your body reduce how much medication is absorbed in your gastrointestinal tract. N-acetylcysteine is another drug that can help with an acetaminophen overdose. You can take this medicine either by mouth or through your vein. N-acetylcysteine is also sometimes helpful to people with acute liver failure that was not caused by too much acetaminophen.
If viral hepatitis is the cause of your acute liver failure, your health care provider may give you the drug lamivudine. This type of drug works by stopping the virus from replicating. If autoimmune hepatitis is causing your liver failure, your health care provider can treat you with steroids.
If your health care provider cannot find the cause of your acute liver failure, he or she may order a liver biopsy. This will provide more information and help determine your course of treatment.
If treatment can’t get your liver working again, you may need a liver transplant. Good candidates for transplant are strong enough for surgery. They don’t have underlying cardiovascular disease, severe infection, or other diseases like AIDS. If you are approved for a liver transplant, your name will be put on a waiting list to receive a donated organ. People with the most urgent need are placed at the top of the list.
While you are waiting for a liver to become available, you may be able to have some therapies to keep you alive. However, the effectiveness of these treatments is unclear.