Hepatic Steatosis

Hepatic Steatosis (Fatty Liver Disease)

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Cirrhosis of the liver is an extremely serious, progressive liver disease that begins with minor scarring and proceeds through the formation of fibrotic lesions all the way to terminal liver breakdown. It can be and often is caused by excessive alcohol consumption, although cirrhosis also has other causes, notably types B and C infectious hepatitis. The prognosis and life expectancy of a patient suffering from cirrhosis of the liver varies depending on which stage the disease has reached in its progression. There are four stages to the progression of cirrhosis that are generally recognized by doctors.

Stage 1

In the early part of the disease, few if any symptoms are encountered. Sometimes a patient suffers from dry mouth, jaundice, fatigue, or upper-abdominal swelling; however, cirrhosis of the liver is a "silent killer" and it is not at all uncommon to have early-stage cirrhosis without the disease showing any symptoms whatsoever. In this stage of the disease, prognosis is very good provided it is detected and appropriate treatment undertaken. Detection can be by blood test to reveal elevated liver enzymes, and medical scanning or a liver biopsy can reveal the abnormal tissue growth and inflammation of liver tissues that is part of stage 1 cirrhosis of the liver.

Stage 2

The second stage of cirrhosis involves hardening of the abnormal tissue growth into rigid scar-like fibers of connective tissue. This condition is sometimes called liver fibrosis. It represents a critical point in the progress of cirrhosis of the liver, although it can occur in other conditions as well. Continued below…

Prognosis and life expectancy are good if the disease is discovered at this point, although some impairment of liver function is probably unavoidable.

Stage 3

The third stage of cirrhosis of the liver sees more serious damage to liver functioning, as the fibrosis evolves into solid masses of enlarged liver tissue. The body's ability to digest fats, including fat-soluble vitamins, can be seriously disrupted. At this point life expectancy begins to drop significantly due to the disease. Overt symptoms are very likely with cirrhosis that has progressed to the third stage.

Stage 4

The final stage of cirrhosis of the liver is terminal. It involves severe impairment of hepatic functioning. Life expectancy is very low, and a liver transplant is required if there is to be any chance of survival.

The Child-Pugh Score

Physicians use a system called the Child-Pugh score to assess life expectancy of patients suffering from cirrhosis of the liver. Five measures are combined to generate the score: total bilirubin, serum albumin, PT INR, ascites, and hepatic encepalopathy.

Each of these is given a value of 1 to 3, where 1 indicates mild damage as in the early stages of cirrhosis while 3 indicates severe imbalance. The results are added and generate one of three levels of overall damage: 5-6 ("Class A," 100% chance of survival for one year, 85% chance for two years); 7-9 ("Class B," 81% chance of survival for one year, 57% chance for two years); or 10-15 ("Class C," 45% chance of survival for one year, 35% chance for two years).


Unfortunately, the damage to the liver done by cirrhosis is irreversible. It is possible, however, for the victim to live a normal life if the progress of the disease is arrested, usually through lifestyle changes, early enough that sufficient hepatic function is retained. If that fails, the only treatment is a liver transplant. A liver transplant can extend survival chances dramatically, although there is always a risk of complications to the surgery, rejection of the transplanted organ, or diseases resulting from the immune-suppression therapy necessary to reduce the chance of rejection.

The biggest problem with liver transplant is the limited number of donor organs available. The cirrhosis sufferer is more likely to die waiting on the transplant list than from the procedure itself. Obviously, the best way to deal with cirrhosis is to prevent its occurrence, which means reducing the risk factors, most obviously by avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, and also by avoiding obesity. Both of these are advisable for reasons of general health as well as specifically in relation to cirrhosis.

Cirrhosis Of The Liver Life Expectancy

Cirrhosis of the Liver Informational Video