Cirrhosis of the liver is a serious diagnosis. Humans cannot live without a functioning liver. However, some people have a normal life expectancy with only one-third of their liver functioning. Those who have given away half their liver to another person needing a transplant have made it possible for medical scientists to verify this fact. In many medically documented cases, the liver will actually “grow back” on a diet of liver-friendly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fish. Foods high in saturated fat, sugar, salt, or caffeine are not beneficial to the liver. Self-prescribed drugs, pharmaceutical drugs, toxins, infections, or alcohol are detrimental to the liver.
The largest organ in the body is the liver, however it is also considered a gland. That definition is because it secretes bile. An average adult liver weighs about 3.5 pounds. It is considered a vital part of the digestive system. Oddly, liver tissue does not feel pain.
Life Expectancy with Cirrhosis of the Liver
Our liver is an amazing organ that can, in many cases and with outstanding care, regenerate itself. However, after the diagnosis of liver cirrhosis , which is liver disease an d a progression of the disease into the late stages, life expectancy (without a transplant) is seriously shortened due to the lessening of the filtering abilities to remove toxic substances from the body by that organ. When at its peak, the liver performs over 500 functions. The liver has a strong influence on blood clotting, the elimination of salt, water, drugs, and toxins from the human body and the manufacture of blood proteins. When 75% or more of the functions are not being accomplished, the liver begins to fail.
Liver Cirrhosis – ASCITES
Ascites is the name for a swollen stomach as a result of fluid buildup because the liver is unable to make protein (albumin). That protein holds fluids in our vessels. When the liver ceases to function, the fluid engorges the stomach. A procedure called paracentesis will relieve the pressure to make breathing or eating easier, but that activity does not heal anything. The patient continues to have liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, and/or cancer as a result of excessive drinking of alcohol or serious infections like hepatitis.
Cirrhosis of the liver is the dying off of the liver cells. The death creates hepatic stellate cells (liver myofibrobriasts – scarring of the liver) in the liver. These are damaged cells. At this time there is some speculation that Sulphasalazine, an inexpensive available drug used for arthritis, may reverse the scarring by helping the scar tissue to melt away and offer some alternative other than death.
Oddly, the amount of damage to the liver, as shown from a biopsy and the final outcome often do not seem to be in sync. A patient my have no symptoms and live a normal lifespan, or a person may have many symptoms, seem to have minimal disease, and die prematurely. It is believed that a well-balanced diet, a exercise routine program, maintaining normal weight (fat stores more toxins than lean tissue), and avoiding an excess consumption of alcohol are all major factors.
Cirrhosis – LIVER DISEASE
The MELD6 (model for end-stage liver disease) score is how medical experts evaluate the stage of progression of liver disease. The following quote explains this test briefly.
The MELD score is based on three blood tests:
- international normalized ratio (INR)—tests the clotting tendency of blood
- bilirubin—tests the amount of bile pigment in the blood
- creatinine—tests kidney function
MELD scores usually range between 6 and 40, with a score of 6 indicating the best likelihood of 90-day survival.
Liver Cirrhosis Treatments
As mentioned earlier, the cirrhosis of the liver patient often develops other medical challenges or complications such as pancreatitis, and/or cancer as a result of excessive drinking of alcohol or serious infections like hepatitis. Like pouring water into a sieve, the medical staff will need to treat each symptom (each stream of water coming out of the sieve). However, some of the treatments may be counter indicated as the liver needs to be able to function as normally as possible. For example:
- Many vitamins, minerals and herbal blends are hard on the liver.
- Diuretics (for fluid retention) or antibiotics (for infections) may further weaken the liver.
- Medication for high blood pressure may help that problem but might not be indicated if internal bleeding is occurring.
- The bowel may need to be cleaned with an antibiotic and eating protein reduced to increase functioning of the digestive tract. However, that treatment might aggravate another symptom.
- Varices (dilated blood vessels) may burst and require emergency band-ligation to stop the bleeding, but there is a limit to the possible positive interventions.
- Hepatorenal syndrome (HRS – renal failure) or hemorrhage often exists in late stage liver failure. The average survival rate for type 1 HRS is three months. Stage two HRS offers about six months of life. The following direct quote explains what to look for to evaluate the stage of failure:
Criteria for diagnosis of hepatorenal syndrome in cirrhosis.
- Cirrhosis with ascites
- Serum creatinine >1.5mg/dl (133μmol/L)
- Absence of shock
- Absence of hypovolemia as defined by no sustained improvement of renal function (creatinine decreasing to <133μmol/L) following at least 2 days of diuretic withdrawal (if on diuretics), and volume expansion with albumin at 1g/kg/day up to a maximum of 100g/day
- No current or recent treatment with nephrotoxic drugs
- Absence of parenchymal renal disease as defined by proteinuria <0.5g/day, no microhaematuria
All research points to care and caution related to the liver if a long life is your goal. Once the diagnosis has been made, the quality and length of life will be reduced significantly depending on the stage of development, and the number and severity of additional complications.