Several other clinical problems may arise from liver disease.
- Infection in the abdomen, known as bacterial peritonitis, is a life-threatening problem. It occurs when bacteria or other organisms grow in the ascites fluid.
- Liver disease causes scarring, which makes blood flow through the liver difficult and may increase the blood pressure in one of the major blood vessels that supply it. This process may result in serious bleeding.
- Blood may also back up into the spleen and cause it to increase in size and to destroy blood cells.
- Blood may also go to the stomach and esophagus (swallowing tube). The veins in those areas may grow and are known as varices. Sometimes, the veins bleed and may require a gastroenterologist to pass a scope down a person’s throat to evaluate them and to stop them from bleeding.
Liver transplantation is surgery that is performed to remove a diseased liver in order to replace it with a healthy one. Such surgeries have been done for over 38 years. Several people who have had liver transplants go on to lead perfectly normal lives.
Liver disease severe enough to require a liver transplant can come from many causes. In adults, the most common reason for liver transplantation is cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver slowly deteriorates and malfunctions due to chronic injury. Scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue, partially blocking the flow of blood through the liver. Cirrhosis can be caused by viruses such as hepatitis B and C, alcohol, autoimmune liver diseases, the buildup of fat in the liver, and hereditary liver diseases. Many people who develop cirrhosis of the liver due to excessive use of alcohol also need a liver transplant. Abstinence from alcohol and treatment of complications for 6 months will usually allow some of them to improve significantly and these patients may survive for prolonged periods without a transplant. For patients with advanced liver disease, where prolonged abstinence and medical treatment fail to restore health, liver transplantation is the treatment.
Liver transplantation surgically replaces a failing or diseased liver with one that is normal and healthy. At this time, transplantation is the only cure for liver insufficiency or liver failure because no device or machine reliably performs all of the functions of the liver. People who require liver transplants typically have one of the following conditions.