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Medication effective for acute liver failure in early stages of disease
Date:10/7/2009

DALLAS Oct. 8, 2009 The antidote for acute liver failure caused by acetaminophen poisoning also can treat acute liver failure due to most other causes if given before severe injury occurs, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers and their colleagues at 21 other institutions have found.

Acute liver failure occurs when cells in the liver die quickly, resulting in toxins being released into the bloodstream and brain. Patients often end up in a hepatic coma as a result of toxins not being cleared by the failing liver. Known causes of acute liver failure include autoimmune hepatitis, drug-induced liver injury, hepatitis A and B, and acetaminophen poisoning.

In a study published in the September issue of Gastroenterology, researchers found that acute liver failure patients in early stages of hepatic comas, when treated with the medicine N-acetylcysteine (NAC), were nearly 2.5 times more likely to survive than those treated only with a placebo.

"NAC is safe, easy to administer, doesn't require intensive care and can be given in community hospitals," said Dr. William M. Lee, professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and lead author of the study. "NAC is an excellent treatment for non-acetaminophen acute liver failure if the disease is caught early."

Acute liver failure affects about 2,000 people annually in the U.S., and 50 percent of those cases are caused by acetaminophen poisoning. Until this study, liver transplantation was the only treatment if the failure was from non-acetaminophen causes.

To test NAC's use in non-acetaminophen cases, researchers at 22 sites randomly assigned non-acetaminophen acute liver failure patients by the level of their coma, with those with mild to moderate coma in one group, and patients with more severe coma in the other group. Beginning in 1999 and continuing for eight years, 173 patients received either NAC or a placebo for 72 hours. Doctors recorded patient survi
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Contact: LaKisha Ladson
lakisha.ladson@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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