In patients with recent onset renal insufficiency, the decision to perform combined kidney/liver transplantation (CKLT) vs. orthotopic liver transplantation alone (OLTa) can be difficult. We hypothesized that duration of renal dysfunction may correlate with creatinine elevation after liver transplantation. We retrospectively identified 69 liver transplantation patients with pretransplantation creatinine > or =1.5 mg/dL (53 OLTa, 13 CKLT). Variables analyzed were presence of hepatorenal syndrome, creatinine, Model for End-Stage Liver Disease score, albumin, age, race, gender, cause of liver disease, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and history of ascites, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, variceal bleeding, hepatic encephalopathy, renal replacement therapy (RRT), and transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunting. Duration of pretransplantation renal dysfunction was predictive of 6- and 12-month creatinine post-OLTa. Area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve for prediction of 12-month renal insufficiency by renal dysfunction duration was 0.71; optimal duration cutoff was 3.6 weeks. We applied a multivariable model, derived from OLTa patients, to CKLT subjects with definite or possible hepatorenal syndrome. Predicted 12-month creatinine without renal transplantation was >2.0 mg/dL for each patient. CKLT patients as opposed to OLTa patients had longer duration of renal dysfunction (median, 18.1 vs. 2.7 weeks, P < 0.001), higher creatinine (median 4.0 versus 1.7 mg/dL, P < 0.001), and higher rate of pretransplantation RRT (62% vs. 7%, P < 0.001). Adjusting for baseline characteristics, CKLT patients had lower creatinine than OLTa patients at 6 months (P =0.15) and 12 months (P =0.01) after transplantation. In conclusion, duration, but not cause, of renal dysfunction predicts renal outcome in OLTa recipients. Prospective studies may use duration of renal dysfunction to help identify CKLT candidates.