Alcoholic liver disease

Prague Med Rep. 2009;110(3):181-90.


Chronic intake of large quantities of alcohol causes damage to many organs, the liver being the most often affected one. In advanced countries, mortality due to liver diseases is directly proportional to alcohol consumption. 30 g of pure alcohol per day is regarded as a "safe" dose. Alcoholic liver disease may take the form of chronic illness (steatosis, steato-hepatitis, fibrosis and cirrhosis) or acute involvement (alcoholic hepatitis). Whereas steatosis is a relatively benign illness, the presence of cirrhosis of the liver means major life expectancy shortening. The actual stage of cirrhosis depends on the presence of complications--portal hypertension with bleeding oesophageal varices, ascites or hepatic encephalopathy. The median survival time of patients with advanced cirrhosis is 1-2 years. Serious alcoholic hepatitis has a mortality record of up to 50%. Absolute abstinence is a sine qua non condition for any treatment of alcoholic liver disease, the other therapeutic procedure are of a supportive nature and questionable significance. Corticoids can be used in the management of serious alcoholic hepatitis. Treatment in the stage of liver cirrhosis is similar to that in cirrhosis of any other aetiology. Cirrhotic patients who demonstrably abstain can be considered for transplantation leading to a markedly prolonged life expectancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic* / diagnosis
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic* / physiopathology
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic* / therapy