Update on the management of acute liver failure

Curr Opin Crit Care. 2019 Apr;25(2):157-164. doi: 10.1097/MCC.0000000000000583.


Purpose of review: This review describes the current intensive care management of acute liver failure (ALF) and the latest evidence for emerging therapies.

Recent findings: Mortality from ALF continues to improve and in some cases, medical therapy can negate the need for liver transplantation because of protocolized management in specialist centres. Liver transplantation remains the cornerstone of management for poor prognosis ALF. The reduced use of blood products in ALF reflects growing evidence of balanced haemostasis in severe liver disease. Prophylactic therapeutic hypothermia is no longer recommended for neuroprotection. In cases not suitable for liver transplantation, high-volume plasma exchange (HVP) has potential benefit, although further research on the optimal timing and dosing is needed. Although sepsis remains an important complication in ALF, the use of prophylactic antimicrobials is being questioned in the era of emerging bacterial resistance.

Summary: ICU management of ALF has improved such that liver transplantation is not required in some cases. HVP has emerged as a potential therapy for patients who may not be good liver transplantation candidates. Nevertheless in suitable patients with poor prognosis liver transplantation remains the optimal therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Critical Care
  • Humans
  • Liver Failure, Acute* / therapy
  • Liver Transplantation*
  • Plasma Exchange