Palliative Care for Patients with End-Stage Liver Disease

  • Anne M LarsonEmail author
Liver (B Bacon, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Liver


Liver disease results in over four million physician visits and over 750,000 hospitalizations per year in the USA. Those with chronic liver disease frequently progress to cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease (ESLD), and death. Patients with ESLD experience numerous complications, including muscle cramps, confusion (hepatic encephalopathy), protein calorie malnutrition, muscle wasting, fluid overload (ascites, edema), bleeding (esophagogastric variceal hemorrhage), infection (spontaneous bacterial peritonitis), fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Despite significant improvements in palliation of these complications, patients still suffer reduced quality of life and must confront the fact that their disease will often inexorably progress to death. Liver transplantation is a valid option in this setting, increasing the duration of survival and palliating many of the symptoms. However, many patients die waiting for an organ or are not candidates for transplantation due to comorbid illness. Others receive a transplant but succumb to complications of the transplant itself. Patients and families must struggle with simultaneously hoping for a cure while facing a life-threatening illness. Ideally, the combination of palliative care with life-sustaining therapy can maximize the patients’ quality and quantity of life. If it becomes clear that life-sustaining therapy is no longer an option, these patients are then already in a system to help them with end-of-life care.


End-stage liver disease Palliative care Death Cirrhosis End-of-life care 


Compliance with Ethics Guidelines

Conflict of Interest

Anne M Larson has received honorarium/speakers bureau fees from Gilead and Salix not related to this article.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swedish Liver CenterSeattleUSA

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