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Complications of Cirrhosis


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Cirrhosis is a chronic (ongoing) liver disease that results when scar tissue replaces normal liver cells over time. It’s an irreversible condition caused by:

Cirrhosis affects how blood flows in the liver and how it processes toxins, nutrients, hormones, and medicines. It also impacts how the liver produces protein and other important substances.

Symptoms of cirrhosis include nausea, weight loss, and increased bruising. Complications of cirrhosis are far-reaching and may require treatment from different specialists. These complications include:

  • Ascites: swelling and fluid in the abdomen and lower body caused by increased pressure in the blood flow to the liver (called portal hypertension)
  • Hepatic encephalopathy: loss of brain function that happens when the liver doesn’t remove toxins in the blood
  • Liver cancer: tumors or masses in the liver (called hepatocellular carcinoma) or biliary tract (intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma)
  • Portal hypertension: increased pressure in the portal vein that carries blood from the digestive organs to the liver
  • Variceal bleeding: happens when veins rupture and bleed due to blood pressure build up in the portal vein (called portal hypertension)

If you or a loved one has cirrhosis, University of Miami Health System hepatologists (liver specialists) can minimize complications with early condition management, to provide better outcomes. Make an appointment with one of our hepatologists today.


Abdominal Angiography
This X-ray image of the blood vessels checks blood flow to the liver and spleen. The procedure involves injecting a contrast dye through a catheter (thin, flexible tube) into an artery.

Advanced Diagnostic Imaging
Medical imaging such as abdominal ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans show blood flow, size, structure, and function of the liver and surrounding organs.

A liver biopsy is a small tissue sample taken from a needle for analysis at a lab. Liver biopsies are performed using ultrasound imaging to guide the needle to the right place.

This procedure measures sound waves moving through the liver to detect tissue stiffness or hardening. Techniques include magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) and transient elastography using ultrasound.

Lab Tests
Some of the urine and blood tests that help detect complications of cirrhosis include liver function studies, cellular blood counts, electrolytes, and autoimmune antibodies.


Interventional Radiology Techniques
Interventional radiology procedures use image-guided technology to repair problems with the vascular system (blood vessels and arteries), like bleeding. Endoscopic banding and sclerotherapy injections are examples.

Medicine Therapy
Medicines can help improve symptoms of cirrhosis or treat the conditions it causes. Your doctor may prescribe medicines to reduce fluid in the abdomen, reduce blood pressure in the veins, restrict bleeding, treat infections, or remove toxins from the blood.

Hepatobiliary surgeries to treat complications of cirrhosis vary, but include minimally invasive and open techniques to remove damage or resect tumors. Portal hypertension surgery can reduce blood pressure in the veins or reroute blood flow — as with transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) and distal splenorenal shunt (DSRS).

If your condition is advanced or doesn’t respond well to medicine therapy or surgery, a liver transplant may be an option.

Why Choose UHealth?

Collaboration with experts in other medical fields, including liver transplantation. We work closely with other specialists you might see, such as cardiologists, interventional radiologists, and neurologists to ensure you receive the best care possible. And if you need a liver transplant, we’re part of the Miami Transplant Institute — South Florida’s only liver transplant facility. You can get all your care under one system.

Seamless services from specialists who care about you. Our hepatology teams are here for you both in the hospital or in the outpatient (clinic) setting. We get to know your family and help you become the healthiest you can be.

Questions? We're here to help.

Our appointment specialists are ready to help you find what you need. Contact us today.