Cirrhosis is an increasing cause of morbidity and mortality in more developed countries, being the 14th most common cause of death worldwide but fourth in central Europe. Increasingly, cirrhosis has been seen to be not a single disease entity, but one that can be subclassified into distinct clinical prognostic stages, with 1-year mortality ranging from 1% to 57% depending on the stage. We review the current understanding of cirrhosis as a dynamic process and outline current therapeutic options for prevention and treatment of complications of cirrhosis, on the basis of the subclassification in clinical stages. The new concept in management of patients with cirrhosis should be prevention and early intervention to stabilise disease progression and to avoid or delay clinical decompensation and the need for liver transplantation. The challenge in the 21st century is to prevent the need for liver transplantation in as many patients with cirrhosis as possible.
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