Br J Hosp Med (Lond). 2020 Sep 2;81(9):1-6. doi: 10.12968/hmed.2020.0310. Epub 2020 Sep 7.
Acute-on-chronic liver failure is used to describe an acute decline in liver function in a patient with existing liver disease combined with other organ failure. Acute-on-chronic liver failure is associated with high short-term mortality, and the greater the number and severity of organ failures, the higher the mortality. The most commonly identified precipitants of acute-on-chronic liver failure include bacterial infection, gastrointestinal haemorrhage, viral hepatitis and recent excessive alcohol intake. Since some of these aetiologies are treatable, organ failure may return to pre-decompensation levels in up to 55% of patients. As a result, a trial of critical care treatment may be appropriate for many of these patients. Clinical scoring tools may help clinicians recognise futility, allowing timely withdrawal of organ support and shifting the focus of care toward palliation.