Tylenol Liver Failure: Signs, Symptoms and Stages

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study revealing that when given the maximum approved daily dosage of acetaminophen, patients developed early signs of possible liver damage. Acetaminophen is the generic name for Tylenol, which is a brand name. With this, patients who have suffered liver failure due to acetaminophen use have already filed Tylenol lawsuits against its manufacturer Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and other drug manufacturers.

Liver failure is a life-threatening health problem that requires immediate medical care. The early symptoms of liver failure may also be due to a various conditions. Due to this, liver failure may be initially difficult to diagnose. Its early symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Jaundice
  • Bleeding easily
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Mental disorientation
  • Drowsiness
  • Comatose

Acetaminophen-induced liver injury has been described in three clinical stages.

During the first stage which is approximately 12 to 24 hours after ingestion, the patient experiences nausea and vomiting.

For the following 12 to 24 hours or so, which is the second stage or the so-called inactive phase, the patient feels better. However, in this phase, the escalating liver damage also changes biochemical markers of liver function. The international normalized ratio (INR), the hepatic transaminases alanine transaminase (ALT), and aspartate transaminase (AST) increase to abnormal levels.

In the third stage, which starts about 48 to 72 hours after the acetaminophen ingestion, liver blood test abnormalities begin to show. During this stage, extremely high abnormal levels of the liver blood tests, AST and ALT occur. This phase is also marked by complications of massive hepatic necrosis resulting in fulminant hepatic failure with complications of coagulation defects, hypoglycemia, kidney failure, hepatic encephalopathy, cerebral edema, sepsis, multiple organ failure, and death.

The human liver holds thousands of enzymes which are special kinds of protein cells that help needed chemical reactions to occur. Enzymes start activity in the body’s cells. They are responsible for accelerating and facilitating naturally-occurring biochemical reactions, and maintaining different metabolic processes within the liver.

Additionally, the liver is responsible for a number of important body functions to keep us healthy. For instance, it produces enzymes and bile that aid in food digestion; it converts food into substances needed for growth and survival; and it eliminates detrimental materials from the blood.

Even though the liver is able to regenerate itself, its capacity to repair itself may be seriously impaired by repeated or extensive damage, such as that perpetrated by the negative effects of acetaminophen intake.