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2256 pages added, reviewed or updated during the last month (last updated: 21/4/2021)

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liver cirrhosis

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Cirrhosis is a condition that occurs as a response to liver damage

  • characterised at a cellular level by distortion of the normal liver structure into nodules of liver tissue surrounded by fibrosis
  • usually takes several years for liver damage to develop into cirrhosis and approximately 10-20% of people with 1 of the 3 most common chronic liver diseases (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, alcohol-related liver disease and chronic viral hepatitis) develop cirrhosis over a period of 10-20 years
  • although people may have physical signs of cirrhosis or its complications, such as jaundice, abdominal swelling due to ascites, muscle wasting, and (in male patients) breast enlargement and testicular atrophy, the clinical identification of cirrhosis is imperfect, especially in people with compensated disease
    • 40% of people with cirrhosis have no symptoms of liver disease
  • people admitted to hospital with liver disease in England in 2012 were more likely to die compared to all cause admissions (8.8% compared with 1.4%)
    • nearly half of liver disease admissions were for alcohol-related liver disease and 12.3% of these admissions resulted in death

NICE note that there is an increased risk of cirrhosis in people who:

  • have hepatitis B virus infection
  • have hepatitis C virus infection
  • misuse alcohol
  • are obese (BMI of 30 kg/m2 or higher)
  • have type 2 diabetes

Cirrhosis represents the end stage of various chronic diseases that cause diffuse parenchymal damage. It is characterised by fibrosis and conversion of the normal hepatic architecture into structurally abnormal nodules resulting in abnormal vascular relationships - arteriovenous shunts - and portal hypertension.

Certain points must be stressed:

  • the entire liver is affected - focal injury with scarring does not constitute cirrhosis
  • parenchymal injury and consequent fibrosis precede nodule formation - nodule formation without fibrosis does not define cirrhosis
  • fibrosis is irreversible


Last reviewed 01/2018