Acute-on-chronic liver failure

William Bernal, Rajiv Jalan, Alberto Quaglia, Kenneth Simpson, Julia Wendon, Andrew Burroughs

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Acute-on-chronic liver failure combines an acute deterioration in liver function in an individual with pre-existing chronic liver disease and hepatic and extrahepatic organ failures, and is associated with substantial short-term mortality. Common precipitants include bacterial and viral infections, alcoholic hepatitis, and surgery, but in more than 40% of patients, no precipitating event is identified. Systemic inflammation and susceptibility to infection are characteristic pathophysiological features. A new diagnostic score, the Chronic Liver Failure Consortium (CLIF-C) organ failure score, has been developed for classification and prognostic assessment of patients with acute-on-chronic liver failure. Disease can be reversed in many patients, and thus clinical management focuses upon the identification and treatment of the precipitant while providing multiorgan-supportive care that addresses the complex pattern of physiological disturbance in critically ill patients with liver disease. Liver transplantation is a highly effective intervention in some specific cases, but recipient identification, organ availability, timing of transplantation, and high resource use are barriers to more widespread application. Recognition of acute-on-chronic liver failure as a clinically and pathophysiologically distinct syndrome with defined diagnostic and prognostic criteria will help to encourage the development of new management pathways and interventions to address the unacceptably high mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1576-87
Number of pages12
JournalThe Lancet
Issue number10003
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2015


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