Acute alcohol liver cirrhosis, encepha... - British Liver Trust

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Acute alcohol liver cirrhosis, encephalopathy...

stacie146 profile image

My Mother was rushed into hospital a week ago after jaundice of the eyes and skin was noticed by her doctor (I live quite a distance away and haven't seen her for a while). Since then, she has been diagnosed with acute liver cirrhosis after 20 years of heavy drinking. She isn't in a good way. The build up of toxins in her body have led to encephalopathy which is currently being treated by anti-biotics. She is also having daily enemas to help flush out the toxins.

Despite her whole liver being damaged, the doctors are saying IF she gives up alcohol, there is a chance part of her liver may recover. Is this true? Everything I'm reading online says otherwise. I'm not sure what to expect. When I asked the doctor how long we should expect my Mother to live, she just said that they aren't expecting her to die during this admission which didn't really help!

8 Replies

Sorry to hear about your mum. I have chronic alcohol liver disease. Acute is where all the symptoms happen at once.first off she has no choice in the matter , no more alcohol ever .she is in the best place. We are all different and cant really say what works for one will work for another. The liver is one amazing organ but it will stop completley if it is continually abused. Not just from alcohol but long term medication and poor diet.hope all turns out ok ..

Thank you for your responses. I think my Mum may have decompensated cirrhosis? She has many of the symptoms of it. Sorry, I probably should have gone into more detail in my original post. Her skin and the whites of her eyes are yellow, she has fluid build up in her stomach/legs/feet, dark urine, she shakes lots, struggles to walk (bed has been moved downstairs for the last few months I've been told), she bruises easily and she is suffering from encephalopathy.

Also, a few weeks before being admitted, she developed a bit of an intolerance to alcohol. I didn't know this but she was drinking 5 bottles of wine per day and her husband tells me that suddenly she couldn't drink as much. I suspect that her symptoms aren't sudden if I'm completely honest. She hasn't looked well for a few years now. We do try our best to stop my Mum from drinking but she just doesn't listen. She has been an alcoholic for 20 years now and still doesn't really recognise that she has a problem. I am very afraid that once she leaves hospital, the first thing she will want is a drink.

She is a complete mess. She can't even feed herself. We are having to spoon feed her, help her drink out of a zippy cup and they have put her in adult nappies as she can't control her bodily functions anymore. Because of all the medication she is on, she is very drowsy. The encephalopathy is also making her hallucinate. She has all these awful symptoms yet the doctors are saying a part of her liver may be able to recover. I'm completely confused! I feel like they are just telling me what I want to hear.

AyrshireK profile image
AyrshireK in reply to stacie146

There is no denying that Mum is very seriously poorly in all the symptoms she is displaying. IF she were to be able to kick the booze she might stand some chance of recovering some liver function as doctors have said and indeed we have got some members of the forum who have been in a similar predicament to your mum and have heeded the warnings and have managed to kick their booze habit (many have gone on to have successful liver transplants).

However, if she does continue to drink I think you know where this could well head and it might not be too far away if she doesn't start to take the help on offer and leave the alcohol alone. There is no chance of total recovery of her liver when it's as far gone as it has and she wouldn't be a candidate for potential transplant unless she could prove her sobriety (normally 6 months minimum in UK) and a commitment to life long abstinence thereafter.

At the moment she is in the right place as she won't have/shouldn't have access to alcohol and will be getting the nescessary vitamins and minerals via drips and supplements. The challenge will indeed come when she has the opportunity to leave hospital.

Thoughts with you all at this sad and challenging time.


Hi there, please just tell your mum she will give herself a good chance of being reasonably well again by accepting she can no longer drink alcohol - never, ever again or she will not get better at all and could die. This is what the medics told me, when I was admitted with similar symptoms. I vowed never to let a drop of alcohol pass my lips ever again, and realise how much damage I have done to my hard-working Liver friend and having made my mind up because I know it is my chance to live I do not crave alcohol or have to avoid situations where others drink. Just over a year on, after several hospital admissions to adjust medications and control Ascites I am no longer bed bound, can eat and enjoy my food again (although with low salt of course) and do not need listing for a transplant. As long as I stick to this, avoid pain medications like paracetamol (unless absolutely essential and at reduced dose if taken) and eat for a healthy liver, my Consultant (would have been my Surgeon) says I should be reasonably healthy and continue to not need listing for a transplant. THERE IS HOPE! If your Mum cannot think of her health, perhaps she can be persuaded by the knowledge that her loved one's do not want to see her suffer and possibly face premature death, but to be able to make new happy memories together. Best, best wishes for you and your Mum.

Hi Stacey,Firstly be strong until you are more sure . It's surprising what people can overcome.

From the doctors I saw there response was as follows.

Jaundice is the serious part right now. Once that has subsided and the yellow eyes and tinge to the skin has started normalising, she is getting slightly better , but by no means out of the water.

You will then be referred to a liver specialist. If it is a casual booking ie go see specialist when you can and you will get a letter from the hospital , it's not as serious as if they send her straight there.

One thing is 4 sure is that cirrhosis is irreversible . That part that is damaged can't be fixed!! how much of the liver that is scarred , only a liver specialis will know. She will always operate on a reduced , weaker liver.

Hopefully not to much. 💔

From there, time will tell but people can live as long as normal. Provided it's not too far along.

Number one would be to NEVER drink again. That will be its own mission depending on her mental strength . Not 1 not 10 cos it's takes you back pretty quick but also,, she will die early for sure.

Healthy diet , moderate exerise at first then live her life, basically a complete change.

I am no expert just a survivor for now. But I have made the changes.And I feel much better. More functional, focused and determinedd to beat whatever. Side effects are mainly memory for me. Hers will differ.

Hope it helps . Best regards


Thank you for your replies. Unfortunately my Mum has had a bad day today in hospital. Today is her 8th day in there and she is refusing to eat and drink so they've had to put her on another saline drip. She is gritting her teeth and clamping her mouth shut. She is also just lying there refusing to speak to or look at anyone. It is almost like she is giving up...

mncold profile image
mncold in reply to stacie146

So sorry to hear your Mom is being difficult. Do the doctors think her actions are due to encephalopathy or does it seem to be her response to her cirrhosis?

Is there an option for a consult in hospital by a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist?

I did not notice if you mentioned your Mom's age. Her age may be impacting her behavior. My husband, at 66, had an acute hospitalization for cirrhosis, but after the doctors got him stabilized he has worked hard to get better and has done a good job, so I am not sure how I would have felt or what I would have done if he'd had a different reaction.

I hope things improve for your Mom and she can find it in her to do what needs doing to get better, if she can't there simply is not much those of us who love them can do other than be there, be accepting, love them, and prepare ourselves.

Best wishes to you.


My Mum is 53 years old. The nurses think it is a combination of both encephalopathy and her response to her illness. She just seems to have given up. Today they have attached a feeding tube and she is still on a saline drip as she won't eat or drink. She is also receiving oxygen via tubes...I'm not sure why though. We haven't been told as the doctors were too busy x

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