From 1985 through 1987, we diagnosed acute hepatic failure in 13 patients. Spontaneous recovery occurred in three of these patients. Eight patients underwent liver transplantation, five of whom survived and three of whom died. In addition, two patients died before undergoing transplantation. The survival rate of 62% was better than that among our previous series of similar patients. This improvement seems to be related to the use of orthotopic liver transplantation as a therapeutic alternative among these patients. One of the three patients who died after liver transplantation had normal liver function, but respiratory failure caused by Pneumocystis carinii developed 4 months after the transplantation. The surgical procedure was less difficult in patients with acute fulminant hepatitis than in those with chronic liver disease because fewer problems arose from adhesions, venous collaterals, and ascites. The emerging role of orthotopic liver transplantation in patients with acute hepatic failure is demonstrated by the improvement of survival rates observed by various groups, including ours, when this therapeutic modality is available.
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