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Fulminant Hepatitis

Topic Overview

People who have fulminant hepatitis typically develop the symptoms seen in viral hepatitis. Then rapidly—within hours, days, or sometimes weeks—they develop severe, often life-threatening liver failure.

Symptoms of severe liver failure include confusion, extreme irritability, altered consciousness (usually leading to unconsciousness or coma), blood-clotting defects, and buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity, arms, and legs.

  • The only known way to prevent fulminant viral hepatitis is to prevent viral hepatitis infection.
  • No medicine can reverse fulminant hepatitis. People who have fulminant hepatitis need to be hospitalized in an intensive care unit so they can be cared for until their condition becomes more stable. For some people, a liver transplant is the only lifesaving option. People younger than age 40 who have fulminant hepatitis are more likely to recover than older adults or people who have chronic liver disease.
  • Depending on the cause of the fulminant hepatitis, about 40 to 70 out of 100 people recover without receiving major treatment.1

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Bell BP, et al. (2004). Hepatitis A virus. In RD Feigin et al., eds., Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 5th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2069–2086. Philadelphia: Saunders.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer W. Thomas London, MD - Hepatology
Last Revised August 30, 2012

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