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Dig Dis Sci. 2000 Feb;45(2):334-9.

Prognostic value of abdominal CT scanning and hepatic histopathology in patients with acute liver failure.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, and Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.


Acute liver failure has extremely high mortality without liver transplantation. We attempted to determine the value of abdominal CT scanning and liver biopsy in its management. A retrospective analysis of patients with acute liver failure was performed; demographic, clinical, radiologic and histopathologic features were noted. Over a period of 13 years, 177 patients were evaluated. The mean age was 39 years and 63% were females. The patients were divided into three groups. Fourteen percent survived with medical management (group I), 37% died (group II), and 49% had liver transplantation (group III). Most patients showed diffuse low density of the liver on CT scanning and the proportions were similar in the three groups. Moderate to large ascites was not present in group I but occurred in 31% of patients in group II and in 15% in group III. Mean hepatic volumes were similar in the three groups; however, 97% of the patients with a liver volume of less than 1000 ml either died or required liver transplantation. Liver biopsies among patients with spontaneous recovery (group I) were distinguished by the presence of regenerative changes and a hepatic parenchymal necrosis of less than 50%. These results suggest that in patients with acute liver failure a liver volume of less than 1000 ml and/or hepatic parenchymal necrosis of greater than 50% is indicative of a poor prognosis. This information may assist decision making in such patients, in particular, regarding the need for liver transplantation.

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