Fulminant hepatitis

People who have fulminant hepatitis typically develop the symptoms seen in viral hepatitis and then rapidly (within hours, days, or occasionally weeks) develop severe, often life-threatening liver failure.

Symptoms of severe liver failure include confusion, extreme irritability, altered consciousness (usually leading to unconsciousness or coma), blood-clotting defects, and buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity, arms, and legs.

  • The only known way to prevent fulminant viral hepatitis is to prevent viral hepatitis infection.
  • No medication can reverse fulminant hepatitis. People who have fulminant hepatitis need to be hospitalized in an intensive care unit so they can be cared for until their condition becomes more stable. For some people, a liver transplant is the only lifesaving option. People younger than age 40 who have fulminant hepatitis are more likely to recover than older adults or people who have chronic liver disease.
  • Depending on the cause of the fulminant hepatitis, about 40% to 70% of people recover without receiving major treatment.1

Citations

  1. Bell BP, et al. (2004). Hepatitis A virus. In RD Feigin et al., eds., Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 5th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2069–2086. Philadelphia: Saunders.

Last Updated: September 9, 2008

Author: Maria G. Essig, MS, ELS

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & W. Thomas London, MD - Hepatology

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