Cirrhosis

Definition

Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver and poor liver function. It is the last stage of chronic liver disease.

Alternative Names

Liver cirrhosis; Chronic liver disease; End-stage liver disease; Liver failure - cirrhosis; Ascites - cirrhosis

Causes

Cirrhosis is most often the end result of chronic liver damage caused by long-term (chronic) liver disease. Common causes of chronic liver disease in the United States are:

Less common causes of cirrhosis include:

Symptoms

There may be no symptoms, or symptoms may come on slowly, depending on how well the liver is working. Often, it is discovered by chance when an x-ray is done or blood is drawn for another reason.

Early symptoms include:

As liver function worsens, symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will do a physical exam to look for:

You may have the following tests to measure liver function:

Other tests to check for liver damage include:

You might need a liver biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

LIFESTYLE CHANGES

Some things you can do to help take care of your liver disease are:

MEDICINES FROM YOUR DOCTOR

OTHER TREATMENTS

When cirrhosis progresses to end-stage liver disease, a liver transplant may be needed.

Support Groups

You can often ease the stress of illness by joining a liver disease support group whose members share common experiences and problems.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Cirrhosis is caused by scarring of the liver. In most cases, the liver cannot heal or return to normal function once damage is severe. Cirrhosis can lead to serious complications.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your provider if you develop symptoms of cirrhosis.

Get emergency medical help right away if you have:

Prevention

DO NOT drink alcohol. Talk to your provider if you are worried about your drinking. Take steps to prevent getting hepatitis B or C or passing it to other people.

References

Garcia-Tsao G. Cirrhosis and its sequelae. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 144.

Kamath PS, Shah VH. Overview of cirrhosis. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 74.

Singal AK, Bataller R, Ahn J, Kamath PS, Shah VH. ACG Clinical Guideline: alcoholic liver disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2018;113(2):175-194. PMID: 29336434 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29336434/.

Wilson SR, Withers CE. The liver. In: Rumack CM, Levine D, eds. Diagnostic Ultrasound. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 4.


Review Date: 2/6/2022
Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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