Acute liver failure
- Cite this article as:
- Aw, M.M. & Dhawan, A. Indian J Pediatr (2002) 69: 87. doi:10.1007/BF02723784
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Acute liver failure (ALF) is a rare condition in the pediatric population. Patients who present with severe failure of liver synthetic function have a high mortality with medical therapy alone. The main causes of death are cerebral edema, hemorrahge, renal failure and sepsis. The etiology of ALF is age specific, with a significant number due to inborn errors of metabolism especially in neonates and infants. Treatment of children with ALF is supportive, aimed at preventing and managing associated complications until the native liver recovers or liver transplantation. Sedation should not be administered unless a decision for artificial ventilation has been made. As all children are potential transplant candidates, transfer to and management in a liver transplant centre is recommended. Prognostic criteria for mortality are less well defined compared to the adult population, although a significantly elevated INR≥4 carries a high chance of death, and liver transplantation should be considered at this stage. Auxiliary transplantation is an attractive option in selected individuals and provides the chance to stop immunosuppression should sufficient hepatic regeneration occur. The use of various liver assist devices and hepatocyte transplantation as a bridge to liver transplantation show promise, although when used in isolation, they do not have an impact on overall patient survival.