OBJECTIVES: We aimed to assess the feasibility and reliability of sequential ultrasonographic and elastographic monitoring in acute liver failure (ALF).

DESIGN: Observational study.

SETTING: ALF is a rare, life-threatening disease that requires intensive care admission and often liver transplant, where the accurate selection of patients is crucial. Liver elastography is a noninvasive tool that can measure hepatic stiffness, but previous results have been inconclusive in ALF.

PATIENTS: Patients admitted between October 2021 and March 2023 to the Liver Intensive Therapy Unit at King's College Hospital with ALF were recruited, with healthy control (HC) individuals and acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) used as controls.


MEASUREMENTS: Average shear wave velocity was recorded with ElastPQ on the right and left liver lobes and the spleen. Portal vein flow, hepatic artery resistive index, and peak systolic velocity were also recorded. Physiologic and histologic data were used for comparison.

MAIN RESULTS: Forty patients with ALF, 22 patients with ACLF, and 9 HC individuals were included in the study. At admission, liver stiffness measurement (LSM) of the right lobe was statistically different between HC individuals (5.6 ± 2 kPa), ALF (31.7 ± 17 kPa), and ACLF (76.3 ± 71 kPa) patients (ALF vs. ACLF, p = 0.0301). Spleen size and stiffness discriminated between ALF (10.4 ± 2 cm and 21.4 ± 16.6 kPa) and ACLF (14 ± 2.3 cm and 42.6 ± 26 kPa). At admission, LSM was not different between ALF patients who spontaneously survived versus patients who died or were transplanted in the following 90 days. However, the trend over the first 10 days of admission was different with a peak of LSM at day 5 in spontaneous survivors followed by reduction during the recovery phase. ALF patients with poor prognosis showed a persistently increased LSM.

CONCLUSIONS: In ALF stiffness peaks at day 5 of admission with subsequent reduction in patients spontaneously surviving, showing significant difference according to the prognosis at day 7 of admission. LSM might be useful in distinguishing acute from acute-on-chronic liver failure together with spleen volume and stiffness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1048
JournalCritical Care Explorations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2024


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