People who have fulminant hepatitis typically develop the symptoms seen in viral hepatitis. Then they rapidly develop severe, often life-threatening liver failure. This can happen within hours, days, or sometimes weeks.
Symptoms of severe liver failure include:
Altered consciousness. (This usually leads to unconsciousness or coma.)
Buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity, arms, and legs.
The only known way to prevent fulminant viral hepatitis is to prevent viral hepatitis infection.
No medicine can reverse fulminant hepatitis. People who have it need to be hospitalized in an intensive care unit. While there, they can be cared for until their condition becomes more stable. For some people, a liver transplant is the only lifesaving option. People younger than age 40 who have fulminant hepatitis are more likely to recover than older adults or people who have chronic liver disease.
Depending on the cause of the fulminant hepatitis, about 40 to 70 out of 100 people recover without major treatment.footnote 1
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & W. Thomas London MD - Hepatology
Fiore AE, Bell BP (2009). Hepatitis A virus. In RD Feigin et al., eds., Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 6th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2194-2213. Philadelphia: Saunders.