Class III obesity is a risk factor for the development of acute-on-chronic liver failure in patients with decompensated cirrhosis

Vinay Sundaram, Rajiv Jalan, Joseph C. Ahn, Michael R. Charlton, David S. Goldberg, Constantine J. Karvellas, Mazen Noureddin, Robert J. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) is a syndrome of systemic inflammation and organ failures. Obesity, also characterized by chronic inflammation, is a risk factor among patients with cirrhosis for decompensation, infection, and mortality. Our aim was to test the hypothesis that obesity predisposes patients with decompensated cirrhosis to the development of ACLF. Methods: We examined the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) database, from 2005–2016, characterizing patients at wait-listing as non-obese (body mass index [BMI] <30), obese class I-II (BMI 30–39.9) and obese class III (BMI ≥40). ACLF was determined based on the CANONIC study definition. We used Cox proportional hazards regression to assess the association between obesity and ACLF development at liver transplantation (LT). We confirmed our findings using the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS), years 2009–2013, using validated diagnostic coding algorithms to identify obesity, hepatic decompensation and ACLF. Logistic regression evaluated the association between obesity and ACLF occurrence. Results: Among 387,884 patient records of decompensated cirrhosis, 116,704 (30.1%) were identified as having ACLF in both databases. Multivariable modeling from the UNOS database revealed class III obesity to be an independent risk factor for ACLF at LT (hazard ratio 1.24; 95% CI 1.09–1.41; p <0.001). This finding was confirmed using the NIS (odds ratio 1.30; 95% CI 1.25–1.35; p <0.001). Regarding specific organ failures, analysis of both registries demonstrated patients with class I-II and class III obesity had a greater prevalence of renal failure. Conclusion: Class III obesity is a newly identified risk factor for ACLF development in patients with decompensated cirrhosis. Obese patients have a particularly high prevalence of renal failure as a component of ACLF. These findings have important implications regarding stratifying risk and preventing the occurrence of ACLF. Lay summary: In this study, we identify that among patients with decompensated cirrhosis, class III obesity (severe/morbid obesity) is a modifiable risk factor for the development of acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF). We further demonstrate that regarding the specific organ failures associated with ACLF, renal failure is significantly more prevalent in obese patients, particularly those with class III obesity. These findings underscore the importance of weight management in cirrhosis, to reduce the risk of ACLF. Patients with class III obesity should be monitored closely for the development of renal failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)617-625
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Inflammation
  • Organ failure
  • Portal hypertension
  • Renal failure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


Dive into the research topics of 'Class III obesity is a risk factor for the development of acute-on-chronic liver failure in patients with decompensated cirrhosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this