Algorithm for Neonatal Acute Liver Failure

K Borovsky et al. JPGN 2021; 73: 80-85. Applying an Age-specific Definition to Better Characterize Etiologies and Outcomes in Neonatal Acute Liver Failure

This single-center retrospective study with 43 patients (over 11 year timeframe) identified etiology and outcomes for neonatal acute liver failure (NALF).

Key findings:

  • Etiologies included viral infection (23%), gestational alloimmune liver disease with neonatal hemochromatosis (GALD-NH) (21%), cardiac-associated ischemia (16%), other ischemia (14%), genetic etiologies (9%), Trisomy 21-associated myelodysplasia (TAM) (7%), hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) (2%), and not identified (7%)
  • Infants with viral etiologies had the highest alanine aminotransferase (ALT) at presentation (1179 IU/L, interquartile range [IQR] 683–1585 IU/L) in contrast to low levels in GALD-NH (23 IU/L, IQR 18–64 IU/L)
  • Across all etiologies, only 33% were alive at 1 year
  • Among laboratory values at presentation, alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) was significantly higher in patients that survived with their native liver (P = 0.04)

Figure 4 provides a helpful management algorithm for NALF. Figure 4 is similar to the slide below (shared by lead author).

  • -Consider empiric acyclovir in those with INR >/= 2.0 in the first 30 days of life
  • -In those with normal to low elevation of aminotransferases, consider empiric IVIG while undergoing workup. Part of workup should include either MRI or lip biopsy for GALD
  • -In those with moderate to severe elevation of aminotransferases, workup should include assessment for viral, HLH and genetic etiologies. Fulminant viral hepatitis or HLH likely with Ferritin levels >10,000. Hypoglycemia and hyperammonemia is suggestive of metabolic/mitochondrial disorder
  • -Liver biopsy may be needed if etiologies not identified

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