Liver Failure

Liver failure is a life-threatening condition in which large parts of your liver are damaged and your liver is no longer functioning.

Overview and Symptoms

Overview and Symptoms

A healthy liver supports all of the body’s metabolic functions. For example, it converts nutrients from food into what our bodies need, filters toxins from our bodies, regulates blood sugar and electrolytes, and more.

Liver failure may occur gradually over a period of time (chronic liver failure) as a result of liver disease or quickly (acute liver failure) as a result of overdose, poisoning, or a virus.

Common symptoms of early stage liver failure include:

  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)

Common symptoms of advanced liver failure include:

  • Fluid build-up and painful swelling of the legs and abdomen
  • Bruising and bleeding easily
  • Enlarged veins in the lower esophagus and stomach
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Gallstones
  • Liver cancer


Acute liver failure may be treated effectively when detected early. For patients who have chronic liver disease, the first goal of treatment is to save the parts of the liver that are still functioning. Liver transplant is the treatment for advanced or end-stage liver disease.

The Liver Failure Program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center gives patients and referring physicians access to a team of specialists who focus in caring for patients with deteriorating liver function.