Cirrhosis of the liver is a life-threatening disease in which normal liver tissue is replaced by non-functioning scar tissue (fibrosis) and nodules which inhibit the normal flow of blood to the liver and impair normal liver function. Cirrhosis is the third most common cause of death in people ages 45-65, after heart disease and cancer.
As the body's largest internal organ, the liver performs numerous vital functions. It metabolizes food and drugs; removes toxins from the blood; stores vitamins, minerals, and sugars; converts food into energy or waste; produces proteins which help the blood clot; breaks down the body's waste products; and produces bile, which helps digest and absorb food and vitamins. Almost all the blood leaving the stomach and intestines flows into the liver before it travels elsewhere in the body. So any impairment of the liver's function can have important effects on the rest of the body.
Liver specialists at the Center for Advanced Digestive Care (CADC) of NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center are among the nation's best and have extensive expertise diagnosing and treating cirrhosis. We have a number of experts in the areas of hepatitis and primary biliary cirrhosis as well. The early diagnosis and treatment of cirrhosis is critical, because the liver damage it causes is irreversible.
For more information on cirrhosis, visit our Health Library.
What Causes Cirrhosis of the Liver?
- Weight loss
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)
- Persistent itching
- Spiderlike blood vessels in the skin
- Water retention
Diagnosis of Cirrhosis
- Liver function tests
- Liver biopsy (examination of a small amount of liver tissue obtained through a long needle inserted through the skin and into the liver)
- Cholangiography (x-ray examination of the bile ducts using an intravenous dye)
- Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan)
- Ultrasound (also called sonography)