Acute liver failure, in which the liver deteriorates over a period of days or weeks, is a relatively rare condition, with about 2000 cases in the United States each year.
Previous studies have suggested that hepatitis is the most common cause of acute liver failure.
However, in this study, published in the latest issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers found that failure was most frequently caused by medication reactions.
The team prospectively assessed 308 patients with acute liver failure admitted to one of 17 special liver-care centers in the United States.
They found acetaminophen overdose to be the single most common cause of acute liver failure.
Overall survival in this study was 67 %, with 132 patients surviving without liver transplantation.
|Acetaminophen overdose is the single most common cause of acute liver failure.|
|Annals of Internal Medicine|
This study shows how rapidly the disease progresses and the importance of early transfer to intensive care settings.
The research team stresses the need to better predict outcomes, so that transplantation is reserved for those who cannot survive without it.