Nov 14, 2013 8:00 AM

Author: Marissa Villasenor

Former Brigham Young University tight end Todd Christensen died on Wednesday at an area hospital after complications during liver transplant surgery. The five-time Pro Bowl NFL player spent most of his career with the Raiders and had been recently battling liver disease. He was 57.

Though the circumstances of Christensen’s untimely death are unknown, there are many stages of liver disease (also commonly known as liver failure). “Patients who need liver transplants are among the sickest in medicine,” said Robin Kim, MD, liver transplant surgeon and executive medical director of transplantation at University of Utah Health. Liver disease is treatable but early diagnosis is key. Once it is determined a person is suffering from liver failure, close monitoring and a relationship with a liver clinician can affect a patient’s outcome. But what exactly is liver failure? 

Liver failure is the severe deterioration of liver function. It occurs when a large portion of the liver is damaged due to any type of liver disorder. Symptoms may include:

  • Jaundice
  • Tendency to bruise or bleed easily
  • Ascites
  • Impaired brain function
  • General failing health
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea

A liver transplant is recommended for individuals who have serious liver dysfunction and will not be able to live without a new liver. The most common liver disease for which transplants are done is cirrhosis. Other diseases may include the following:

  • Acute hepatic necrosis
  • Viral hepatitis
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Liver cancers
  • Autoimmune hepatitis

Learn more about liver disease and transplant options at the University of Utah’s Liver Transplant Program.

Marissa Villasenor

Marissa Villasenor is a public relations specialist at University of Utah Health Care. Follow her on Twitter: @Marivillasenor

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