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Pediatric Liver Failure


What is liver failure?

Pediatric liver failure is a condition in which a child’s liver rapidly deteriorates (acute) to the point that it can no longer function normally or in which the liver loses most or all of its function (chronic).

What causes liver failure?

The most common cause of acute liver failure in children is taking too much of the drug acetaminophen (Tylenol), either all at once or over a period of time. Infections, certain metabolic diseases, viruses, hepatitis, and heart disease can also cause acute liver failure in children.

What are the symptoms of liver failure?

What are they types of liver failure?

How is liver failure diagnosed?

The following are tests that are used to diagnose acute liver failure. Your child’s doctor may use a combination of these tests:

  • Medical history and physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • CT scan
  • Liver biopsy (removal of a small amount of tissue from the liver using a needle to be examined under a microscope)
  • Ultrasound

How is liver failure treated?

The following are customary treatment methods for acute liver failure. Your child’s doctor may use a combination of these methods:

  • Medications to counteract the effects of acetaminophen
  • Treatment of the condition that caused the acute liver failure
  • Liver transplant

Innovative care

The Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at Children’s Health℠ leads the field in innovative care of digestive and nutritional conditions in infants, children and adolescents.

Ranked by U.S. News and World Report magazine as one of the top programs of its type in the nation, Children’s Health routinely delivers world-class care to over 1,000 patients per month, including children from surrounding communities who travel to visit us.

Our division has the resources to provide a diversity of specialists to diagnose and treat digestive and nutritional conditions in infants, children and adolescents from every possible angle. Although we are one of the largest pediatric gastroenterology programs in the country, we deliver personalized care to our patients before, during and after treatment so that you and your child will never feel overwhelmed.

We pride ourselves not only on being a leader in treatment and care, but also on being at the forefront of research into new treatments for gastrointestinal conditions in infants, children and adolescents. The internationally recognized Hepatology and Liver Transplantation Program at Children’s Health produces research and conducts clinical studies into acute liver failure, viral hepatitis and chronic liver diseases.


For more information about acute liver failure, refer to the following resources:

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