Determinants of outcome and the utility of the Child-Pugh score and the acute physiology and chronic health evaluation (APACHE) II score as predictors of outcome were prospectively assessed in 54 consecutive patients with cirrhosis requiring intensive care unit (ICU) management. Overall mortality in the ICU was 43% (23/54). Child-Pugh scores did not differ between survivors or nonsurvivors (12.8 versus 12.3, P = 0.26), however APACHE II scores (P = 0.007), acute physiology scores (P = 0.006), and Karnofsky scores (P = 0.001) were significant predictors of outcome. By univariate analysis, requirement of mechanical ventilation analysis (P = 0.001), duration of mechanical ventilation (P = 0.001), pulmonary infiltrates (P = 0.0001), infections (P = 0.047), gastrointestinal bleeding (P = 0.005), and serum creatinine >1.5mg/dl (P = 0.0005) were significantly associated with mortality. By logistic regression analysis only pulmonary infiltrates (P = 0.0001) and renal dysfunction (P = 0.041) were independent predictors of mortality. When controlled for the severity of illness (APACHE II scores), the mortality in patients with cirrhosis caused by alcohol was significantly lower than that in patients with liver disease not caused by alcohol (P = 0.01). Our study not only identified predictors of poor outcome in patients with cirrhosis requiring ICU care but also provided data that may have implications for optimal timing for transplantation.