What Happens When Your Organs Shut Down?

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Organ failure often leads to death. A person’s organs may shut down due to nutritional or circulatory insufficiency, overwhelming infection, prolonged sickness or overuse. Acute organ failure from Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndrome differs in duration and causation from long term organ failure such as congestive heart failure, according to ModernMedicine.

In cases of congestive heart failure the heart’s function decreases over time, leading to systemic body dysfunction. According to eMedicineHealth, heart failure is simply a term used when body tissues are not receiving as much blood and oxygen as they require. This may be a temporary condition and does not mean that the heart stops working altogether as it does in fatal myocardial infarction. When the pumping action of the heart is decreased, it causes blood to back up, increasing pressure in the blood vessels and forcing fluid into body tissues. Fluid build-up is evidenced by edema and ascites.

Acute organ failure may be caused by Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndrome, or MODS. Medscape defines MODS as a process in which there is a “progressive physiologic failure of several interdependent organ systems.” Initial infection can worsen to become systemic, eventually leading to MODS. Many organ systems can be affected by MODS, leading to circulatory derangement as well as dysfunction of the pulmonary system, gastrointestinal system, liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. When these systems fail to function, the patient will not survive.