Fulminant hepatic failure (FHF), also called acute liver failure, is defined as severe liver failure (including encephalopathy or decreased brain function) that occurs within six weeks of onset of jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). The term is used to describe sudden liver failure in someone who was previously healthy.
FHF may be due to a virus. The immune system of an infant, a young child or a child with other health problems may not be able to fight the virus. The liver becomes damaged as a result. Other children may experience acute liver failure because of an overactive immune system (an autoimmune response where the body attacks the liver), a drug reaction or other unspecified causes. Often, the cause of FHF cannot be determined.
Early symptoms of FHF include:
As liver failure progresses:
If your child experiences symptoms of FHF, a pediatric gastroenterologist will use the following exams and tests to confirm liver failure and determine the cause:
Treatment for children with FHF requires intensive care unit (ICU) support in the hospital and includes:
Visit the websites below to find support groups and services and learn more about FHF.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
The Riley at IU Health Liver Support Group meets one or two times a year for a family-oriented education program and socializing. Please call 317.944.3774 for meeting dates and times. Topics include testing for liver disease, complications of liver disease, impact of chronic disease on the family, liver transplant, nutrition for liver disease and medicine for liver disease.
This website provides education and support resources for children and families living with FHF.
Riley at IU Health is part of the Childhood Liver Disease Research Network, an international research collaboration that looks for new and better ways to treat childhood liver diseases. Through this research network, your child may be eligible to participate in a clinical study which will help improve treatment for childhood liver conditions. Ask your child's doctor for more information about current participatory research studies.
In addition to our primary hospital location at the Academic Health Center in Indianapolis, IN, we have convenient locations to better serve our communities throughout the state.