Liver failure is a life-threatening condition in which large parts of your liver are damaged and your liver is no longer functioning.

Overview and Symptoms

A healthy liver supports all of the body’s metabolic functions. For example, it converts nutrients from food into what our bodies need, filters toxins from our bodies, regulates blood sugar and electrolytes, and more.

Liver failure may occur gradually over a period of time (chronic liver failure) as a result of liver disease or quickly (acute liver failure) as a result of overdose, poisoning, or a virus.

Common symptoms of early stage liver failure include:

  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)

Common symptoms of advanced liver failure include:

  • Fluid build-up and painful swelling of the legs and abdomen
  • Bruising and bleeding easily
  • Enlarged veins in the lower esophagus and stomach
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Gallstones
  • Liver cancer


Acute liver failure may be treated effectively when detected early. For patients who have chronic liver disease, the first goal of treatment is to save the parts of the liver that are still functioning. Liver transplant is the treatment for advanced or end-stage liver disease.

Liver Center

BIDMC's Liver Center brings together an exceptional team of multidisciplinary providers to offer personalized care and advanced treatment options to patients with a variety of liver conditions.

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