Medical Encyclopedia


Medical Encyclopedia

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Contents of this page:


Digestive system
Digestive system
Liver cirrhosis, CT scan
Liver cirrhosis, CT scan
Digestive system organs
Digestive system organs

Alternative Names    Return to top

Liver cirrhosis

Definition    Return to top

Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver and poor liver function as a result of chronic liver disease.

Causes    Return to top

Cirrhosis is caused by chronic liver disease. Common causes of chronic liver disease in the U.S. include:

Other causes of cirrhosis include:

Symptoms    Return to top

Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:

Symptoms may develop gradually, or there may be no symptoms.

Exams and Tests    Return to top

During a physical examination the health care provider may find:

Tests can reveal liver problems including:

A liver biopsy confirms cirrhosis.

This disease may also affect the results of the following tests:

Treatment    Return to top

Treatment attempts to manage the complications of cirrhosis and prevent further liver damage. It may include stopping certain medications and alcohol that caused the problem.

Other treatment options are available for the complications of cirrhosis:

If cirrhosis progresses and becomes life-threatening, a liver transplant should be considered.

Support Groups    Return to top

The stress of illness can often be eased by joining a support group whose members share common experiences and problems. See liver disease - support group.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

Cirrhosis is caused by irreversible scarring of the liver. Once cirrhosis develops, it is not possible to heal the liver or return its function to normal. It is a serious condition that can lead to many complications.

A liver specialist (hepatologist) should help evaluate and manage complications. Cirrhosis may result in the need for a liver transplant.

Possible Complications    Return to top

A procedure called TIPS (transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt) is sometimes necessary as a result of many of these complications.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call your health care provider if:

Call your provider, or go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if:

Prevention    Return to top

Don't drink alcohol heavily. If you find that your drinking is getting out of hand, seek professional help.

Avoid intravenous drug use (or only use clean needles and never share other equipment) to reduce the risk of hepatitis B and C.

Some research indicates that hepatitis C may be spread via shared use of straws or items used to snort cocaine or other drugs. Avoid snorting drugs or sharing any related paraphernalia. If you have a problem with illicit drugs, seek help.

References    Return to top

Carithers RL, McClain C. Alcoholic Liver Disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ. Feldman: Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2006:chap 81.

Update Date: 12/12/2008

Updated by: A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Greg Juhn, MTPW, David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Christian Stone, MD, Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (5/27/2008).

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