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Cirrhosis in adults: Overview of complications, general management, and prognosis

Eric Goldberg, MD
Sanjiv Chopra, MD, MACP
Section Editor
Bruce A Runyon, MD
Deputy Editor
Anne C Travis, MD, MSc, FACG, AGAF


Cirrhosis represents a late stage of progressive hepatic fibrosis characterized by distortion of the hepatic architecture and the formation of regenerative nodules. It is generally considered to be irreversible in its advanced stages, at which point the only option may be liver transplantation. In earlier stages, specific treatments aimed at the underlying cause of liver disease may improve or even reverse cirrhosis.

Patients with cirrhosis are susceptible to a variety of complications, and their life expectancy can be markedly reduced. Cirrhosis accounted for approximately 49,500 deaths and was the eighth leading cause of death in the United States in 2010 [1]. In addition, there were an estimated 19,500 deaths due to liver cancer, which often occurs in the setting of cirrhosis. Similarly, a study that used data from the National Death Index from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Rochester Epidemiology Project estimated that liver disease was responsible for 66,007 deaths in 2008, of which 18,175 were due to hepatobiliary cancer [2].

This topic will review the complications, general management, and prognosis of cirrhosis. An overview of the causes and diagnosis of cirrhosis is presented separately. (See "Cirrhosis in adults: Etiologies, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis".)


Major complications of cirrhosis include (table 1):

Variceal hemorrhage


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Aug 12, 2015.
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