Acute liver failure physical examination
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Patients with acute liver failure may appear lethargic, anorexic and fatigue. In the initial stages of acute liver failure, the patient may have mild mental status changes such as altered sleep pattern but may become confused or develop coma in the later stages as the disease progresses. Physical examination of acute liver failure is remarkable for hepatomegaly, right upper quadrant abdominal tenderness, ascites and encephalopathy.
Appearance of the Patient
- Patient with acute liver failure may be appearing ill and lethargic.
- The patients with acute liver failure with mild mental status changes such as altered sleep pattern at initial stages may become confused or develop a comatose condition in the later stage.
- Low-grade fever if the acute liver failure is due to viral infection.
- Hypothermia / hyperthermia may be present.
- Tachycardia may be present in shock liver.
- Low blood pressure may be present in shock liver.
- Vesicular skin lesions can be seen if the acute liver failure is due to herpes simplex infection.
- Signs of easy bruising.
- Icteric sclera
- If the acute liver failure causes cerebral edema, the ophthalmoscopic exam may reveal papilloedema.
- Pupillary changes can also be seen with increased intracranial pressure. In grade I encephalopathy, the pupil may have a normal response. In grade II to III encephalopathy, the pupil can be hyperresponsive. In grade III to IV encephalopathy, the pupil begin to respond slowly.
- Abdominal distention due to ascites
- Diffuse abdominal tenderness.
- Abdominal tenderness in the right upper abdominal quadrant.
The extremities may have signs of easy bleeding due to coagulopathy.
- Hepatic encephalopathy is included in the diagnostic criteria of acute liver failure. The findings in hepatic encephalopathy varies from subtle mental status changes to coma.
- The presence of hepatic encephalopathy is one of the defining characteristics of acute liver failure. Findings in patients with hepatic encephalopathy are variable, ranging from changes in behavior to coma.
Grades of Hepatic Encephalopathy
- Grade I
- Grade II
- Grade III
- Grade IV
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