Conditions & Treatments

Drug-Induced Hepatitis

Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver, resulting in liver cell damage and destruction. Drug-induced hepatitis is rare and is caused by toxic exposure to certain medications, vitamins, herbal remedies, or food supplements.

Drug-Induced Hepatitis

What is drug-induced hepatitis?

Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver, resulting in liver cell damage and destruction. Drug-induced hepatitis is rare and is caused by toxic exposure to certain medications, vitamins, herbal remedies, or food supplements. Usually, the toxicity occurs after taking the causative agent for several months, or from an overdose of a medication, such as acetaminophen. Usually, the agent is discontinued once hepatitis is suspected and is rarely restarted unless it is absolutely essential for treatment.

What are the symptoms of drug-induced hepatitis?

The following are the most common symptoms of drug-induced hepatitis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Fever

  • Rash or itchy red hives on skin

  • Joint pain

  • Sore muscles

  • Flu-like symptoms

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Decreased appetite

  • Sore muscles

  • Dark urine

  • Pale or clay-colored stools

  • Jaundice. A yellowing of the skin and eyes.

The symptoms of drug-induced hepatitis may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is drug-induced hepatitis diagnosed?

In addition to complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for drug-induced hepatitis may include the following:

  • Specific laboratory blood tests, such as the following:

    • Liver function studies

    • Cellular blood counts

    • Bleeding times

    • Electrolyte tests

    • Tests for other chemicals in the body

    • Drug screening tests

  • Ultrasound (also called sonography). A diagnostic imaging technique which uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs of the abdomen, such as the liver spleen, and kidneys, and to assess blood flow through various vessels.

  • Liver biopsy. A procedure in which tissue samples from the liver are removed (with a needle or during surgery) from the body for examination under a microscope.

Treatment for drug-induced hepatitis

Specific treatment for drug-induced hepatitis will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the disease

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the disease

  • Your opinion or preference

The goal of treatment for drug-induced hepatitis is to discontinue taking the causative agent and monitor the liver closely while it recovers. Some drugs may cause a slight increase in liver enzymes without symptoms. It may not be necessary to discontinue using these medications. Always consult your doctor. If drug-induced hepatitis is suspected and confirmed, serial blood tests will be necessary, and possibly a referral to a liver specialist. Your doctor will report the findings to the FDA and the pharmaceutical manufacturer.

Treatment Programs


Massachusetts General Hospital understands that a variety of factors influence patients' health care decisions. That's just one reason why we're dedicated to ensuring patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Because a single option might not serve all patients, we offer a wide range of coordinated treatments and related services across the hospital. Patients should consult with their primary care doctor or other qualified health care provider for medical advice and diagnosis information.

Select a treatment program for more information:



Digestive Healthcare Center

  • Liver Center
    Massachusetts General Hospital Liver Center specialists are authorities in the diagnosis and management of all forms of acute and chronic liver disease.
Imaging

  • Pediatric Imaging
    The Pediatric Imaging Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging specializes in ensuring the safety and comfort of child patients while providing the latest technology and the expertise of specialized pediatric radiologists.
  • Adult Medicine Imaging
    The Adult Medicine Imaging Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging offers a wide range of diagnostic exams and minimally invasive, image-guided treatments, all provided using leading-edge equipment and interpreted by specialty-trained radiologists.
MassGeneral Hospital for Children

  • Pediatric Transplant Surgery
    The Pediatric Transplant Program at MassGeneral Hospital for Children is a major referral center for organ transplants for children.
  • Pediatric Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Program
    The Pediatric Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Program at MassGeneral Hospital for Children diagnoses and treats infants, children and adolescents with diverse hepatic, biliary and pancreatic disorders.
Gastroenterology

  • Hepatology Program
    The Hepatology Program at the Gastroenterology Division of Massachusetts General Hospital provides expert consultation and ongoing care for patients with acute and chronic liver conditions.

The following related clinical trials and research studies are currently seeking participants at Massachusetts General Hospital. Search for clinical trials and studies in another area of interest.

Innovative care at the Digestive Healthcare Center

Learn more about the latest treatment options for this condition at the Digestive Healthcare Center