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Definition of Liver Failure

Reviewed on 3/29/2021

Liver failure: a condition that occurs when the liver is damaged and no longer able to function. Liver failure may be come on suddenly (acute) or develop slowly over time (chronic), depending upon the cause. There are a number of diseases and conditions that can result in liver failure. Examples include hepatitis B and C, hemochromatosis (iron overload), alcohol abuse, medications (for example, acetaminophen poisoning [Tylenol and others], malnutrition, toxins, and any condition that causes scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver. Symptoms of liver failure include

  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • jaundice (yellowish skin and whites of the eyes),
  • confusion,
  • sleepiness,
  • distended abdomen,
  • bleeding tendencies, and
  • mental decline.

Liver failure may be fatal if not corrected. In some cases, a liver transplant may be required.


Hepatitis C, Hep B, Hep A: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment See Slideshow
Longo, D.L., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2012.

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