Ammonia level and mortality in acute liver failure: A single-center experience

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10 Scopus citations


Background: Acute liver failure (ALF) is an emergent condition that requires intensive care and manifests in particular by significant elevation in serum ammonia level. Patients with ALF with concomitant renal failure experience a further rise in ammonia levels due to decreased kidney excretion. The aim of this study was to evaluate the relationship between elevated ammonia levels and mortality and to characterize the subgroup of ALF patients who develop acute kidney injury (AKI) and require renal replacement therapy. Material/Methods: This was a retrospective study of 36 consecutive patients admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital’s intensive care units from December 2008 to May 2013 who presented with grade III and IV hepatic encephalopathy (HE). Patients who developed AKI and required hemodialysis (HD) were compared to those without AKI. Patients with chronic kidney disease were excluded. Results: Sixteen patients developed AKI and underwent HD (HD group). Median ammonia levels in the HD and non-HD groups were not significantly different (p=0.95). In the HD group, 4 patients underwent liver transplantation (LT) and 3 of them survived the hospitalization. Among the 12 HD patients who did not receive LT, 6 (50%) survived. Out of 20 non-HD patients, 3 were transplanted, all of whom survived the hospitalization. Among the 17 non-HD patients who did not receive LT, 14 (82%) survived. Admission ammonia level (>120 μmol/L) was associated with higher mortality rate (OR=7.188 [95% CI 1.3326-38.952], p=0.026) in all patients. Conclusions: Admission ammonia level is predictive of mortality in ALF patients with grade 3-4 HE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-483
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of Transplantation
StatePublished - Aug 2 2016


  • Acute
  • Acute kidney injury
  • Ammonia
  • Hemodialysis units
  • Hospital
  • Liver failure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transplantation


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