Acute liver failure in children: the first 348 patients in the pediatric acute liver failure study group

J Pediatr. 2006 May;148(5):652-658. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2005.12.051.


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.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Liver Failure, Acute* / diagnosis
  • Liver Failure, Acute* / epidemiology
  • Liver Failure, Acute* / therapy
  • Liver Transplantation
  • Male
  • Needs Assessment
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • United Kingdom
  • United States / epidemiology