Application of intensive care medicine principles in the management of the acute liver failure patient



Key Points

  • 1Acute liver failure is a paradigm for multiple system organ failure that develops as a consequence of sepsis.
  • 2In the United States, systemic inflammatory response, sepsis, and septic shock are common reasons for intensive care unit admission. Intensive care management of these patients serves as a template for the management of patients with acute liver failure.
  • 3Acute liver failure is attended by high mortality. Although intensive care results in improved survival, the key treatment is liver transplantation. Intensive care unit intervention may open a “window of opportunity” and enable successful liver transplantation in patients who are too ill at presentation.
  • 4Intracranial hypertension complicates the course for many patients with acute liver failure. Initially, intracranial hypertension results from hyperemia, which is cerebral edema that reduces cerebral blood flow and eventuates in herniation. The precepts of neurocritical care—monitoring cerebral perfusion pressure, cerebral blood flow, and cortical activity—with rapid response to hemodynamic abnormalities, maintenance of normoxia, euglycemia, control of seizures, therapeutic hypothermia, osmotic therapy, and judicious hyperventilation are key to reducing mortality attributable to neurologic failure.

Liver Transpl 14:S85–S89, 2008. © 2008 AASLD.