Cirrhosis - Treatment Overview
Cirrhosis is usually a progressive condition. Before your
condition becomes severe, you may want to talk to your doctor about future
treatment options. You may want to discuss:
- Whether you will be a good candidate for a
liver transplant if your disease becomes advanced. Talk about what steps you
can take now to improve your overall health so that you can increase your
chances of being considered a good candidate.
- What level of
medical intervention you want as you approach the end of life. Some people want
every possible medical treatment to sustain life. Others prefer measures to
maintain comfort without prolonging life. Advanced cirrhosis can affect your
brain function, so it makes sense to think about these issues while you are still
able to make and communicate decisions.
Treatment if the condition gets worse
Cirrhosis is a
potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when inflammation and
scarring damage the liver. As cirrhosis and liver damage get worse, you may
have more problems with fluid buildup in the abdomen (ascites), bleeding
from enlarged veins in the digestive tract (variceal bleeding),
changes in mental function (encephalopathy), and
other complications. You may need a combination of medicines, surgeries, and
other treatments, depending on the nature and severity of the problems.
Receiving a liver from an organ donor (liver transplantation) is the only
treatment that will restore normal liver function and cure
portal hypertension. Liver transplantation is usually
considered only when liver damage is severe and threatening your life. Most
people who receive liver transplants have end-stage cirrhosis and severe
complications of portal hypertension.
Liver transplant surgery is
very expensive. You may have to wait a long time for a transplant because so
few organs are available. Even if a transplant occurs, it may not be
successful. With these things in mind, doctors must decide who will benefit
most from receiving a liver transplant.
- Liver transplantation may be an option if you
have end-stage cirrhosis and are a good candidate for the surgery. Good
candidates include those who:
- Have not abused alcohol or illegal drugs
for the previous 6 months.
- Have a good support system of family and
- Can stay on a complicated regimen of post-transplant
medicines to prevent the body from rejecting the liver.
- Liver transplant may not be a good option if
you have other serious medical conditions (such as heart or lung conditions)
that reduce your chance of surviving surgery or that would reduce your life
expectancy even if you received a new liver.
If your cirrhosis gets worse, you
may want to think about
palliative care. Palliative care is a kind of care for
people who have illnesses that do not go away and often get worse over time. It
is different than care to cure your illness, called curative treatment.
Palliative care focuses on improving your quality of life-not just in your
body, but also in your mind and spirit. Palliative care can be combined with