What Are the Final Stages of Cirrhosis of the Liver?

The final stages of liver cirrhosis are referred to as decompensated cirrhosis and involve progressive failure of the liver due to the accumulation of scar tissue, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. A number of symptoms may occur as cirrhosis progresses into its final stages; these include jaundice, fluid accumulation in the abdomen, kidney failure, bleeding in the stomach and intestines, and encephalopathy due to toxin accumulation in the blood.

Doctors determine the presence and stage of liver fibrosis, or fibrosis that has progressed to cirrhosis, with a biopsy, according to the American College of Gastroenterology. In some cases, a biopsy is not necessary and a diagnosis can be made with a combination of blood tests, endoscopy, a physical examination or imaging studies.

Early symptoms of liver failure caused by severe cirrhosis include tiredness, diarrhea, queasiness and loss of appetite. Confusion, jaundice, edema around the abdomen and sleepiness are signs of advanced liver failure, notes WebMD.

The most common causes of cirrhosis of the liver are alcohol abuse and infection with diseases such as viral hepatitis and schistosomiasis, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Rarely, certain genetic disorders, bile duct problems and exposure to certain chemicals can also lead to cirrhosis. Regardless of the cause, cirrhosis results in the build-up of scar tissue in the liver. The liver mostly is able to offset the loss of function due to this scarring in the beginning states of cirrhosis, though symptoms such as fatigue or abdominal pain may occur. The decompensated stage of cirrhosis begins once liver function declines sufficiently that other body systems are affected.

Progressive scarring within the liver can also cause high blood pressure inside of the organ. This condition, called portal hypertension, is a common condition for people with cirrhosis, explains eMedicineHealth. As it advances, portal hypertension can cause overall fluid retention and intestinal bleeding. This bleeding can progress to the stomach and esophagus, causing enlarged veins and potentially fatal bleeding. This gastrointestinal bleeding often causes someone with cirrhosis to vomit blood.

Many of the complications experienced by patients suffering from decompensated cirrhosis can be life-threatening, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. Bleeding from enlarged veins in the abdomen presents a serious medical emergency, and encephalopathy due to cirrhosis can eventually progress into coma. People with advanced cirrhosis also have a higher risk of developing liver cancer. While treatments can help slow or stop the progression of cirrhosis, the only way to restore liver function once end-stage liver disease occurs is a liver transplant.