What is Cirrhosis of the Liver?
The term cirrhosis is given to the end stage condition of the liver that results from the progression of a number of liver diseases. The pathological processes lead to scarring of the liver substance with formation of abnormal nodules of tissue and distortion of liver architecture including the veins that drain the organ. The destructive scarring processes affect the whole of the liver and are ultimately irreversible.
Cirrhosis can be classified by reference to the pathological pattern: -
- Micro nodular where smalls nodules, less than 3 mm in diameter are separated by fibrous bands (commonly seen in alcoholic cirrhosis).
- Macro nodular where nodules are of various sizes, greater than 3 mm
- (seen in chronic viral hepatitis).
- Mixed - combination of above.
Typically cirrhosis takes some years to develop as the underlying disease gradually affects and destroys the cells of the liver. Since the liver is a large organ and has the capacity to repair and regenerate itself, the effects of the damage on function may not be apparent for a long time. Cirrhosis is often described as compensated, when the condition is diagnosed but it has had no discernible or significant effect on liver function to date.
Ultimately cirrhosis impairs the normal functions of the liver leading to a number of serious complications including abnormal bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract (portal hypertension), ascites, liver failure and hepatocellular carcinoma.
If evidence shows that Cirrhosis is due to Alcohol misuse, then also consult the Alcohol Related Disorders guidance for additional information.
If evidence shows that the customer has liver failure, then go to the Liver Failure guidance.