Surgery in the Patient with Liver Disease

Diego J. Muilenburg, Amrik Singh, Guido Torzilli, Vijay P. Khatri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Liver dysfunction is a prominent entity in Western medicine that has historically affected patients suffering from chronic viral or alcoholic hepatitis. The incidence of these conditions has not changed dramatically in recent years but the overall number of patients with liver dysfunction has increased considerably with the emergence of the obesity epidemic. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has become increasingly recognized as the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the United States. Although the rate of progression of NAFLD to overt cirrhosis is low, the high prevalence of this condition, combined with the moderate degree of liver dysfunction it engenders, has resulted in a significant increase in the number of patients with liver disease that can be encountered by a surgical practice. Any degree of clinically evident liver disease in a prospective surgical patient should raise concern for the entire surgical team. This particularly applies to intraabdominal surgery whereby the presence of hepatomegaly, portal hypertension, variceal bleeding, and ascites can turn even the most routine operation into a morbid and life-threatening procedure. Nonabdominal surgery avoids some of the technical challenges presented by liver disease but the anesthetic management of a cirrhotic patient still makes any operation potentially more dangerous. In this article, approaches to minimize the risk when surgery becomes necessary in the presence of liver disease are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-737
Number of pages17
JournalAnesthesiology Clinics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009


  • Ascites
  • Cirrhosis
  • Hepatopulmonary syndrome
  • Hepatorenal syndrome
  • Jaundice
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Portal hypertension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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