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The exact role of renal dysfunction in critically ill cirrhotics admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) has not been assessed extensively.To evaluate the impact of acute renal failure (ARF) on 6 weeks mortality in cirrhotics admitted to ICU.Three hundred and twelve cirrhotics (182 male, mean age 49.6±11.5 years) were consecutively admitted during the study period. The patients (n=128, 40%) (group 1) with ARF on admission and/or during ICU were compared with the patients whose ICU stay was not complicated with ARF (n=184, 60%) (group 2). At admission, 40 variables were available, whereas Child–Turcotte–Pugh, Model for End-stage Liver Disease, Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II, Sequential Organ Failure Assessment and Failure Organ System scores on admission, were evaluated and compared by receiver operating characteristic curves.Group 1, compared with group 2 patients, had longer ICU stay (7 vs. 4 days, P=0.04) and required cardiovascular support more frequently with inotropes (90 vs. 75%), (P<0.001). Mortality was significantly higher in group 1, compared with group 2 (91 vs. 47%, P<0.001). At admission, group 1, compared with group 2, had significantly higher Child–Turcotte–Pugh (12 vs. 11), Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II (22 vs. 17), Model for End-stage Liver Disease (31 vs. 21), Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (13 vs. 9) and Failure Organ System (3 vs. 2) scores (P<0.001). In group 1, factors independently associated with mortality were: higher FiO2 (P=0.044), bilirubin (P=0.021) and creatinine (P=0.002) on admission. Mortality was not significantly different between those with ARF on admission, and those who developed ARF during ICU stay.ARF at admission or during ICU stay is strongly predictive of mortality, which is high, despite supportive therapeutic interventions. Preventive measures are needed to prevent ARF, to improve prognosis.