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Cirrhosis is a condition that occurs when chronic diseases cause permanent damage or injury to the liver. The liver is the second largest organ in the body weighing about four pounds and is located in the upper right side of the abdomen, below the ribs. The liver is responsible for performing more functions than any other organ in the body, such as metabolizing the food we eat, filtering and detoxifying poisons in our blood to remove numerous toxic compounds, producing immune agents to control infection and regenerating itself when part of it has been damaged. The scar tissue that forms in cirrhosis harms the structure of the liver, blocking the flow of blood through the organ. It also slows the processing of nutrients, proteins, hormones, drugs, toxins and other substances produced by the liver.

About 25,000 people die from cirrhosis annually, making it the 11th leading cause of death by disease in the United States. Cirrhosis has many causes, but in the U.S., chronic alcoholism and hepatitis C are among the most common. Almost one-half of all cirrhosis deaths are due to excessive alcohol use. Other causes of the disease include chronic hepatitis B and D, autoimmune hepatitis, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), blocked bile ducts, drugs, toxins, infections and certain inherited metabolic diseases such as Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, hemochromatosis, Wilson's disease, galactosemia and glycogen storage diseases.

Our Approach to Cirrhosis

To treat cirrhosis, our specialists focus on addressing its underlying cause to slow or stop the liver damage. We may also prescribe medications to relieve symptoms and prevent or treat complications.

If the liver becomes too damaged to function, liver transplantation may be an option. UCSF offers a liver transplant program known for outstanding outcomes and survival statistics that are among the best in the country. Our program helped pioneer techniques that have made transplantation safer and more successful.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • One of the nation's best in gastroenterology & GI surgery

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.