Complications of Liver Cirrhosis

Liver cirrhosis is a term used to describe scarring of liver tissue. When liver tissue is damaged, scar tissue replaces the healthy tissue that is needed for some of the body’s vital tasks, including bile production, blood protein creation and the removal of toxins from the bloodstream. Nearly one in every 400 adults in the U.S. suffers from liver cirrhosis, and this condition causes close to 26,000 deaths per year.

Complications of liver cirrhosis include:   

  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • Esophageal varices
  • Hepatorenal syndrome
  • Jaundice
  • Hepatopulmonary syndrome
  • Portopulmonary hypertension
  • Sarcopenia

The liver disease and hepatology experts at the Comprehensive Liver Disease & Transplant Center at Tampa General Hospital’s Transplant Institute treat many patients with complications of liver cirrhosis. Through medical management and advanced liver transplant techniques, we achieve world-class outcomes for our patients.

Causes of Liver Cirrhosis Complications

Complications from liver cirrhosis occur when the liver is severely damaged. For example, patients with hepatic encephalopathy have a nervous system disorder caused by excess toxins in the bloodstream that a healthy liver would normally filter out. Those toxins can travel to the brain and disrupt brain function.

Symptoms of Liver Cirrhosis Complications

As liver function deteriorates and cirrhosis complications arise, symptoms can include:

  • Itchy skin
  • Leg, ankle and foot swelling
  • Easy bruising and bleeding
  • Enlarged veins
  • A buildup of fluid in the abdomen
  • Orange or brownish urine
  • Confusion, drowsiness and slowed speech

Cirrhosis can also be painful, especially as it worsens. Pain is usually noticed in the right upper abdomen and can feel like a dull, throbbing ache or a stabbing sensation.

Diagnosing Liver Cirrhosis Complications

Cirrhosis is most often diagnosed through blood tests, a review of medical history (including history of using over-the-counter and prescription drugs, injectable drugs and alcohol), and a physical exam. Other diagnostic options may include imaging tests or a liver biopsy.

Treatments for Liver Cirrhosis Complications at TGH

For patients with complications of cirrhosis, recommended treatments will likely address the underlying causes of the liver damage. Cirrhosis damage, while irreversible, can be medically managed in most circumstances. A liver transplant is required in some cases.

The team at the Comprehensive Liver Disease & Transplant Center at TGH develops individualized care plans for each patient and determines which course of action will provide a favorable outcome. Our Liver Transplant Program is a high-volume transplant program, and we regularly treat complex cases. In addition, we have an above-average survival rate and a shorter-than-average time to transplant, according to Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients data

Become a Patient

To become a patient in our Liver Transplant Program, you, your physician, or another hospital must fill out a referral form or call 813-844-8686. To speak to a transplant coordinator, call 813-844-7137.

Click here to learn more about our liver transplant process.