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Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2016 May;32(3):172-81. doi: 10.1097/MOG.0000000000000265.

Acute on chronic liver failure: definitions, treatments and outcomes.

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aAnnette C. and Harold C. Simmons Transplant Institute, Division of Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine, Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, TexasbDepartment of Internal Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina, USA.



Acute on chronic liver failure (ACLF) causes significant morbidity and mortality in patients with cirrhosis and/or chronic liver disease (CLD). The purpose of this review is to highlight recent studies that have better defined ACLF, and to highlight current outcomes and treatment strategies.


Currently, there are no clear definitions for ACLF; however, ACLF requires a precipitating event that occurs in the setting of cirrhosis and/or CLD, and progresses rapidly to multiorgan failure with high mortality. Most precipitants of ACLF are due to infections, leading to inflammatory cascades, hence early treatment with antibiotics in these cases might show benefit. Prognosis in ACLF typically depends on the number of extrahepatic organs affected. Potential biomarkers in ACLF may result in early detection and risk stratification; however, further research is needed. ACLF portends a poor prognosis; however, rescue therapy with liver transplantation has been considered in selected cases.


ACLF is a common and devastating complication of cirrhosis or CLD. ACLF usually requires a precipitating event and rapid progression to multiorgan failure with high mortality. Although signs and symptoms might overlap in patients with ACLF and those with decompensated cirrhosis, the two entities should be distinguished separately (although it is challenging to differentiate these in certain cases). Furthermore, diagnosing each entity should be based on a variety of clinical indicators, laboratory data and precipitating factors, in order to determine the best possible targeted treatment strategies. Refinement in the clinical definitions for ACLF may lead to better management and possibly better outcomes if recognized early.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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