Acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF), a newly recognized clinical entity seen in hospitalized patients with chronic liver disease including cirrhosis, is associated with high short- and medium term morbidity and mortality. None of the definitions of ACLF proposed so far have been universally accepted, the two most commonly used being those proposed by the Asia-Pacific Association for the Study of Liver (APASL) and the European Association for the Study of Liver - Chronic Liver Failure (EASL-CLIF) consortium. On paper both definitions and diagnostic criteria appear to be different from each other, reflecting the differences in cut-off values for individual parameters used in diagnosis, the acute insult or precipitating event and the underlying chronic liver disease. Data directly comparing these two criteria are limited, and available studies reveal different outcomes when the two are applied to the same set of patients. However a review of the literature suggests that both definitions do not seem to identify the same set of patients. The definition given by the APASL consortium is easier to apply in day-to-day practice but the EASL-CLIF criteria appear to better predict mortality in ACLF. The World Gastroenterology Organization working party have proposed a working definition of ACLF which will identify patients from whom relevant data can be collected so that the similarities and the differences between the two regions, if any, can be clearly defined.
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