The syndrome of acute-on-chronic liver failure combines deterioration of liver function in a patient with chronic liver disease, with the development of extrahepatic organ failure and high short-term mortality. Its successful management demands a rapid and coherent response to the development of dysfunction and failure of multiple organ systems in an intensive care unit setting. This response recognises the features that distinguish it from other critical illness and addresses the complex interplay between the precipitating insult, the many organ systems involved and the disordered physiology of underlying chronic liver disease. An evidence base is building to support the approaches currently adopted and outcomes for patients with this condition are improving, but mortality remains unacceptably high. Herein, we review practical considerations in critical care management, as well as discussing key knowledge gaps and areas of controversy that require further focussed research.
William Bernal, Constantine Karvellas, Faouzi Saliba, Fuat H Saner, Philippe Meersseman