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Elevated serum lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) has been reported in a serious of clinical diseases. However, the relationship between LDH and the incidence of persistent organ failure (POF) in acute pancreatitis (AP) has not been characterized.A total of 105 patients with AP who presented within 72 h from symptom onset between 2014 and 2015 were included in this retrospective study. Demographic parameters and laboratory data on admission were compared between patients with and without POF. Multivariable logistic regression analyses were utilized to evaluate the prognostic value of LDH for predicting POF.21 patients were diagnosed with POF. Compared to non-POF, patients with POF showed a significantly higher value of serum LDH on admission (741.57 ± 331.72 vs. 296.08 ± 135.73 U/L, P < 0.001). After multivariate logistic analysis, LDH remained an independent risk factor for POF (Hazard ratio 4.38, 95%CI: 1.42–13.47; P = 0.010). A LDH value of 647 U/L predicted POF with an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.876, a sensitivity with 76.2% and specificity with 98.8%, respectively.Our results indicate that serum LDH on admission is independently associated with POF in AP and may serve as a potential prognostic factor.