Acute-on-chronic liver failure: Controversies and consensus

World J Gastroenterol. 2023 Jan 14;29(2):232-240. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v29.i2.232.


Acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) is a poorly defined syndrome characterised by rapid clinical deterioration in patients with chronic liver disease. Consequences include high short-term morbidity, mortality, and healthcare resource utilisation. ACLF encompasses a dysregulated, systemic inflammatory response, which can precipitate extra hepatic organ failures. Common precipitants include infection, alcoholic hepatitis, and reactivation of viral hepatitis although frequently no cause is identified. Heterogenous definitions, diagnostic criteria, and treatment guidelines, have been proposed by international hepatology societies. This can result in delayed or missed diagnoses of ACLF, significant variability in clinical management, and under-estimation of disease burden. Liver transplantation may be considered but the mainstay of treatment is organ support, often in the intensive care unit. This review will provide clarity around where are the controversies and consensus in ACLF including: Epidemiology and resource utilisation, key clinical and diagnostic features, strategies for management, and research gaps.

Keywords: Acute-on-chronic liver failure; End stage liver disease; Epidemiology; Liver cirrhosis; Mortality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute-On-Chronic Liver Failure* / diagnosis
  • Acute-On-Chronic Liver Failure* / epidemiology
  • Acute-On-Chronic Liver Failure* / etiology
  • Consensus
  • Hepatitis, Alcoholic*
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications
  • Liver Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Prognosis