Pediatric cirrhosis

Pediatric cirrhosis (cir·​rho·​sis) occurs when liver disease has damaged the cells in the liver and caused scar tissue to form.


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What is pediatric cirrhosis?

When liver disease has advanced and caused scar tissue to form, cirrhosis can result. The scar tissue blocks blood flow, which leads to waste products building up in the child’s body. Therefore, the liver cannot perform its normal functions.

Many people think of cirrhosis occurring due to a history of alcoholism. While this is sometimes a contributing factor in adults with cirrhosis, children can develop the condition for a variety of other reasons. 

What are the signs and symptoms of pediatric cirrhosis?

Early symptoms

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • General weakness
  • Painful or tender abdomen
  • Reduced appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss

Later symptoms

  • Bruising easily
  • Enlarged liver
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Infections in the abdomen
  • Itching
  • Feeling confused or unusually forgetful
  • Jaundice 
  • Liver cancer
  • Loss of body hair
  • Reddened palms of the hands
  • Retaining water
  • Swelling of the legs and abdomen
  • Tremors
  • Urine that is dark in color
  • Vomiting blood
  • Wounds that take unusually long to heal

Pediatric cirrhosis of the liver - Children's Health

What are the causes of pediatric cirrhosis?

Causes of cirrhosis in children can include:

Alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency

A hereditary condition that can lead to lung and liver disease

Autoimmune hepatitis

Inflammation of the liver caused by the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking the liver

Bile duct diseases

Affects the tube that carries bile from the gallbladder to the small intestine during the normal course of digestion

Cystic fibrosis (CF)

An inherited genetic condition that affects mucus production, leading to lung infections and breathing difficulties.

Exposure to certain drugs and toxins

Including methotrexate (medication used to treat cancer), rheumatoid arthritispsoriasis and high levels of vitamin A

Fatty liver disease

A group of conditions that affect the liver of a person without a history of alcoholism

Glycogen storage disease

A condition in which a child’s body is unable to process or store the energy found in foods

Hepatitis B

A viral infection that affects the liver and causes both acute (short-term) and chronic (ongoing) complications

Hepatitis C

A viral infection that leads to inflammation of the liver and other related complications


A genetic condition that causes problems breaking down a specific amino acid – called tyrosine – that is found in most sources of protein

Wilson’s disease

A hereditary condition in which excessive amounts of copper accumulates in a child’s organs

Pediatric cirrhosis doctors and providers