Acute liver failure (ALF) is an uncommon condition associated with high morbidity and mortality. We performed a retrospective analysis of patients evaluated for ALF. The aim of our study is to determine the clinical features and outcome of such patients and to assess the validity of King's College Hospital (KCH) prognostic criteria. One hundred seventy-seven patients were evaluated for ALF during a period of 13 years. Mean age was 39 years, and 63% were women. The causes included vital hepatitis (31%), acetaminophen toxicity (19%), idiosyncratic drug reactions (12%), miscellaneous causes (11%), and an indeterminate group (28%). Twenty-five patients (14%) recovered with medical therapy (group I), 65 patients (37%) died without orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT; group II), and 87 patients (49%) underwent OLT (group III). Patients in group II were older and often had advanced encephalopathy, whereas those in group I had less hyperbilirubinemia and often had hyperacute failure. KCH criteria had high specificity and positive predictive value but low negative predictive value for a poor outcome. We conclude that early prognostication is needed in patients with ALF to assist decision making regarding OLT. The fulfillment of KCH criteria usually predicts a poor outcome, but a lack of fulfillment does not predict survival. (C) 2000 by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.
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