Liver Disease

What is the treatment for liver disease?

Each liver disease will have its own specific treatment regimen. For example, hepatitis A requires supportive care to maintain hydration while the body's immune system fights and resolves the infection. Patients with gallstones may require surgery to remove the gallbladder. Other diseases may need long-term medical care to control and minimize the consequences of their disease

In patients with cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease, medications may be required to control the amount of protein absorbed in the diet. The liver affected by cirrhosis may not be able to metabolize the waste products, resulting in elevated blood ammonia levels and hepatic encephalopathy (lethargy, confusion, coma). Low sodium diet and water pills (diuretics) may be required to minimize water retention.

In those patients with large amounts of ascites fluid (fluid accumulated in the abdominal cavity), the excess fluid may have to be occasionally removed with a needle and syringe (paracentesis). Using local anesthetic, a needle is inserted through the abdominal wall and the fluid is withdrawn. The ascites fluid can spontaneously become infected and paracentesis also may be used as a diagnostic test looking for infection.

Operations may be required to treat portal hypertension and minimize the risk of bleeding.

Liver transplantation is the final option for patients whose livers have failed.

What are the complications of liver disease?

Except for gallstone disease and some viral infections such as Hepatitis A and infectious mononucleosis, most liver diseases are managed and not cured.

Liver disease can progress to cirrhosis and liver failure. Associated complications may include increased risk of bleeding and infection, malnutrition and weight loss, and decreased cognitive function.

Some liver diseases are associated with an increased risk of developing liver cancer.

Reviewed on 7/10/2014