What is Cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis (also called cirrhosis of the liver) is a type of liver disease in which scar tissue forms on the liver (a large organ above the stomach that helps filter waste, digest food and keep blood pressure levels normal). The scar tissue makes it harder for blood to flow through the liver. This means the liver does not work as well. It also means waste can build up in the body.

Does the Scar Tissue from Cirrhosis Heal or Go Away?

In most cases, the scar tissue on the liver does not heal or go away. Treatment can help slow the growth of scar tissue or prevent new scar tissue from forming.

What Causes Cirrhosis?

There are many conditions that can cause cirrhosis. These conditions include: 

  • Hepatitis A, B or autoimmune hepatitis
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Biliary atresia
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Alpha-1-antitypsin deficiency

Cirrhosis typically happens in 3 stages: early, middle and late-stage. Symptoms depend on which stage of cirrhosis your child is experiencing.

What are the Symptoms of Cirrhosis?

Early-stage cirrhosis:

There are typically no symptoms in early-stage cirrhosis. Your child might have symptoms related to other medical conditions.

Middle-stage cirrhosis:

  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Nausea (upset stomach) or vomiting
  • Swelling of the abdomen (belly area)
  • Jaundice (yellowing) of the eyes or skin
  • Dark urine
  • Spider-like blood vessels on the skin or bleeding easily

Late-stage cirrhosis: 

  • Swelling of the abdomen and legs
  • Enlarged (larger than usual) liver or spleen
  • Kidney failure
  • Loss of body hair
  • Forgetfulness or confusion

Rev. 6/2018. MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.