Liver Failure

Liver failure is a generally irreversible condition that occurs when this important organ in the digestive system is no longer able to perform its normal functions, which include removing toxins, making proteins, and producing biochemical that are needed for digestion. There are two main types of liver failure: acute and chronic. In acute cases, liver failure comes on quickly, typically within 26 weeks of the first symptoms, in patients with no prior history of liver disease. Some cases of acute liver failure can be reversed.

Chronic liver failure develops over years and normally is caused by cirrhosis, a condition that comes before liver failure and turns healthy liver tissue into scar tissue. It also can be caused by excessive alcohol intake, hepatitis B or C, autoimmune disease, or hereditary and metabolic factors. The liver is necessary for survival; currently there is no way to survive long-term without proper liver function. New liver dialysis (cleansing) techniques can be used in the short term, but a liver transplant eventually will be needed.

Medical and surgical care for liver disorders at UAB Medicine is delivered by a team of dedicated and highly skilled physicians and surgeons. Our patients benefit from collaboration among experts who are nationally recognized leaders in treating liver disease. Care is offered through several specialized clinics and programs, which are described below:

  • The UAB Liver Center is a care and research facility dedicated to advancing knowledge and medical treatment of liver disease. This includes conditions such as alcoholic liver disease, amyloidosis, fatty liver disease, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), viral hepatitis (types A, B, C, D, and E), Caroli disease, Wilson’s disease, and many more.
  • The UAB Liver Transplant Program is the only one in Alabama and one of only 20 in the country that averages 100 or more liver transplants annually. Liver transplantation is the preferred option for patients who have end-stage liver disease and need a transplant to survive, so we developed a streamlined transplant evaluation process for the convenience of patients.
  • The UAB Hepatobiliary Surgery Clinic, also known as the Liver Tumor Clinic, is staffed by liver transplant surgeons and nurse practitioners and supported by a liver tumor board that includes experts from radiology, hepatology, medical and radiation oncology, interventional radiology, and pathology. We diagnose and treat patients with focal hepatic lesions (such as adenoma and focal nodular hyperplasia), HCC, hepatic metastases, and cholangiocarcinoma. Our high-volume program offers open surgery and minimally invasive laparoscopic procedures, as well as more advanced therapies.
  • The Liver Clinic at 1917 provides an entry point for patients seeking evaluation for hepatitis C (HCV) infections and patients with HIV who are infected with other viruses that affect the liver. The clinic is staffed by infectious disease, hepatology, and surgical specialists. As a major research center, UAB offers many patients the opportunity to participate in clinical trials of therapies not available at other medical centers.

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