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Hepatic ischemia

Hepatic ischemia is a condition in which the liver does not get enough blood or oxygen, causing injury to liver cells.


Low blood pressure from any condition can lead to hepatic ischemia. Such conditions may include:

Other causes may include:

  • Blood clots in the main artery to the liver (hepatic artery) after a liver transplant
  • Swelling of blood vessels leading to reduced blood flow (vasculitis)


If low blood pressure continues for a long time, you may feel weak and lightheaded. However, the period of low blood pressure may be brief and produce no symptoms. Damage to the liver cells most often does not cause symptoms until it affects liver function.

Blood clots in the liver's main artery may cause abdominal pain.

Exams and Tests

The following tests will be done:

  • Blood tests to check liver function (AST and ALT )
  • Doppler ultrasound of the liver's blood vessels


Treatment depends on the cause. Low blood pressure and blood clots must be treated right away.

Outlook (Prognosis)

People generally recover if the illness causing hepatic ischemia can be treated. Death from liver failure due to hepatic ischemia is very rare.

Possible Complications

Liver failure is a rare, but life-threatening complication.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your health care provider right away if you have persistent weakness or symptoms of shock or dehydration.


Quickly treating the causes of low blood pressure may prevent hepatic ischemia.

Alternative Names

Ischemic hepatitis; Shock liver


Hauser SC. Vascular diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 143.

Valla DC. Vascular disease of the liver. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 85.

Review Date 5/11/2016

Updated by: Subodh K. Lal, MD, gastroenterologist with Gastrointestinal Specialists of Georgia, Austell, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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