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Oral nucleos(t)ide analogs are recommended for patients with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related acute exacerbation (AE) and acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF). The efficacy and safety of administering entecavir (ETV) and lamivudine (LAM) to such patients remain unclear.A comprehensive literature search was performed to select studies published before December 2015 on therapy involving ETV or LAM for chronic HBV-related AE with or without ACLF. The main outcomes were short-term (within 4 mo) and long-term (beyond 4 mo) mortality. The secondary outcomes were virological and biochemical responses, ACLF recurrence, and safety.Three prospective and 8 retrospective cohort studies involving 1491 patients were selected. An overall analysis revealed comparable short-term and long-term mortality rates among all patients who received ETV or LAM [short term: risk ratio (RR)=0.99; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.78-1.27; long term: RR=0.82; 95% CI, 0.45-1.52]. However, in patients with ACLF, ETV yielded a more favorable long-term outcome than did LAM (RR=0.60; 95% CI, 0.45-0.80). Furthermore, ETV resulted in more efficient virological and biochemical responses than did LAM regarding the HBV DNA undetectable rate (RR=1.34; 95% CI, 1.09-1.63), HBV DNA reduction rate (weighted mean difference=−0.41; 95% CI, −0.69 to −0.13), and serum alanine aminotransferase normalization rate (RR=1.13; 95% CI, 1.05-1.21).ETV and LAM treatments exerted similar effects on the mortality rate of patients with chronic HBV-related AE with or without ACLF. However, ETV yielded a more favorable long-term outcome than did LAM in patients with ACLF; ETV was associated with greater clinical improvements. Additional larger, long-term randomized controlled trials are required to confirm these conclusions.