Acute liver failure in Scotland between 1992 and 2009; incidence, aetiology and outcome

QJM. 2011 Nov;104(11):945-56. doi: 10.1093/qjmed/hcr098. Epub 2011 Jul 4.


Aim: To describe incidence, aetiology and outcome data for Scotland since the inception of the Scottish Liver Transplant Unit (SLTU) in 1992.

Background: Acute liver failure (ALF) is a rare but frequently fatal condition. Few studies have adequate patient numbers to draw convincing conclusions over demographic features, aetiology and outcome.

Design: Statistical analysis of prospectively collected data on aetiology, demographic, clinical and outcome of all admissions, including those with ALF, to the SLTU.

Methods: Incidence data presented for admissions and ALF. Descriptive frequencies for aetiology, clinical, demographic and outcome data presented; including split analysis for paracetamol and non-paracetamol aetiologies. Univariate and multivariate analysis of admission factors predictive of outcome is described.

Results: Nine hundred and forty-nine patients were admitted to the SLTU between 1992 and 2009. Five hundred and twenty-four patients had ALF. The annual incidence of ALF in the Scottish population is 0.62 per 100,000 and paracetamol overdose (POD) was the largest causative factor; responsible for 0.43 cases of ALF per 100,000 population per year. The odds ratio (OR) of transplantation or death was 0.47 in the POD group compared to other aetiologies; yet of not being a transplant candidate having met the Kings College Hospital poor prognostic criteria OR was 4.9. Of admissions listed for transplant 76.0% were transplanted. Of those listed and not transplanted mortality was approaching 100% and 76.1% of those transplanted survived to discharge.

Conclusion: This large, prospective, single centre study with a defined geographical area and well-recorded population provides accurate data regarding ALF between 1992 and 2009.

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / poisoning
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / poisoning
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Liver Failure, Acute / epidemiology*
  • Liver Failure, Acute / etiology
  • Liver Failure, Acute / mortality
  • Liver Failure, Acute / surgery
  • Liver Transplantation / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Acetaminophen