1. Ledgerwood, Chelsea DO
  2. Villgran, Vipin MD
  3. Mardirossian, Nicholas BSN, RN, CCRN
  4. Dumont, Tiffany DO, FCCP
  5. DiSilvio, Briana MD


Acute liver failure (ALF) is a rare but life-threatening disease process that can result in rapidly progressive encephalopathy, elevated intracranial pressure, and multiorgan failure. In the United States, the 2 most common causes of ALF in the intensive care unit (ICU) are acetaminophen overdose and hypoxic-ischemic hepatopathy. Less common causes of ALF include alcoholic hepatitis, nonacetaminophen drug-induced liver injury, acute viral hepatitis, Wilson's disease, autoimmune hepatitis, and acute fatty liver of pregnancy. Unfortunately, there are many cases in which the cause of liver failure is indeterminate. ALF is an ICU emergency that requires close monitoring, extensive workup to determine etiology, frequent support of hemodynamic, respiratory, and renal function, administration of targeted therapies depending on the cause, utilization of N-acetylcysteine if appropriate, and consideration for liver transplant in select cases. The primary objective of this article is to define, diagnose, and detail the management of ALF in an ICU setting.