How long a person lives after his liver shuts down depends upon the cause of the acute liver failure and whether he has access to emergency medical treatment. If initiated promptly, sometimes treatment is effective and the condition can be reversed. When the liver is too severely damaged to be repaired, a liver transplant can be performed. Without treatment, acute liver failure can cause coma and death within weeks.
The most common cause of acute liver failure is an overdose of acetaminophen medications, such as Tylenol. Other causes include toxic wild mushrooms, prescription medications, herbal medications, liver disease, cancer, autoimmune disease and hepatitis. Acetaminophen overdose or mushroom poisoning can sometimes be treated with medication. When liver failure is caused by a virus, hospitalization and treatment can sometimes manage the symptoms until the organ has time to recover. Liver transplant patients have almost a 60 percent chance of surviving for at least 15 years.
Acute liver failure is often difficult to diagnose at first, as the symptoms are vague. They include loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea and diarrhea. As the condition progresses, more obvious symptoms include jaundice, swelling of the abdomen, excessive bleeding, confusion, sleepiness and coma. The best way to avoid acute liver failure is through preventive care methods, such as a proper diet, moderate alcohol intake, hepatitis vaccinations, good personal hygiene, not sharing intravenous needles, maintaining a healthy weight and following instructions when taking medications.