Objectives: To determine short-term outcome for children with acute liver failure (ALF) as it relates to cause, clinical status, and patient demographics and to determine prognostic factors.
Study design: A prospective, multicenter case study collecting demographic, clinical, laboratory, and short-term outcome data on children from birth to 18 years with ALF. Patients without encephalopathy were included if the prothrombin time and international normalized ratio remained > or = 20 seconds and/or >2, respectively, despite vitamin K. Primary outcome measures 3 weeks after study entry were death, death after transplantation, alive with native liver, and alive with transplanted organ.
Results: The cause of ALF in 348 children included acute acetaminophen toxicity (14%), metabolic disease (10%), autoimmune liver disease (6%), non-acetaminophen drug-related hepatotoxicity (5%), infections (6%), other diagnosed conditions (10%); 49% were indeterminate. Outcome varied between patient sub-groups; 20% with non-acetaminophen ALF died or underwent liver transplantation and never had clinical encephalopathy.
Conclusions: Causes of ALF in children differ from in adults. Clinical encephalopathy may not be present in children. The high percentage of indeterminate cases provides an opportunity for investigation.