Acute Liver Failure (ALF) refers to rapid loss of liver function. It is life-threatening as it can happen in days or weeks and it can cause serious complications including internal organs failure and excessive bleeding. Also, it is more often found in a person who has no pre-existing liver disease. For most situations, the only cure for ALF is liver transplant. It takes over ten hours to do a compatibility test for a liver before surgery can start. This is one of the reasons why there is a high mortality rate. Patients cannot survive if they are not able to find the donor in time.
Ruby Luk, a bride-to-be, died due to fulminant liver failure one day before her wedding. She was sent to hospital as the liver function test stated that her alanine aminotransferase (ALT) was abnormally high. It measured 13000 Units per Liter in her blood, while the normal level is 0-35 Units per Liter. The high level (>50) of ALT indicates the damage to liver cells as a result of infection, as ALT is the enzyme mainly found in the liver.
She was in a hepatic coma when the doctor found that the ALT level had never dropped down. It was followed by a deterioration of kidney and heart functions because the failure of the detoxification process. She died a few hours after all the internal organs failed. The operation could not have taken place even if there had been a healthy liver available.
Ruby had no history of liver diseases. Doctors explained the cause of ALF might be due to the medications she took in previous months. She was diagnosed with Pemphigus, which is a rare and serious skin disease, 3 months before she passed away. She took steroids, which was prescribed by successive dermatological doctor, to cure Pemphigus.
There is no particular symptom that can make you aware that you have a liver problem. As liver plays a crucial role in the metabolic system, it determines the life or death of a person. The following are some signs of acute hepatitis that can be traced:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Dark Urine
- Pale-coloured stool
- Abdominal swelling
- Pain in upper right abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Yellowing of the skin and eyeballs
- Disorientation or confusion
Apart from the 5 typical types of viral hepatitis, there are some other external factors can damage the liver:
- Acetaminophen overdose
- Prescription medication
- Herbal supplements
- Autoimmune disease
- Disease of veins in the liver
- Metabolic diseases
Nevertheless, besides tradition western medication therapy, herbal supplements and Chinese herbal medication are thought of a natural cure. But The Journal of Taiwan Pharmacy reported that there is a certain level of toxicity shown in particular ingredients even the medication was prescribed by registered Chinese doctors.
Therefore we should not neglect the health of our liver. We have to be aware of the side effects after taking medicine. Moreover, we have to pay extra attention on our body after medication, especially infection because it can easily for it to take our lives.