Acute renal failure (ARF) can complicate up to 60% of orthotopic liver transplants (OLT). The RIFLE criteria were developed to provide a consensus definition for acute renal disease in critically ill patients. Using the RIFLE criteria, we aimed to determine the incidence and risk factors for ARF and acute renal injury (ARI), and to evaluate the link with the outcomes, patient survival and length of hospital stay. Three hundred patients, who received 359 OLTs, were retrospectively analyzed. ARI and ARF occurred post 11.1 and 25.7% of OLTs, respectively. By multivariate analysis, ARI was associated with pre-OLT hypertension and alcoholic liver disease and ARF with higher pre-OLT creatinine, inotrope and aminoglycoside use. ARF, but not ARI, had an impact on 30-day and 1-year patient survival and longer length of hospital stay. ARI and ARF, as defined by the RIFLE criteria, are common complications of OLT, with distinct risk factors and ARF has serious clinical consequences. The development of a consensus definition is a welcome advance, however these criteria do need to be validated in large studies in a wide variety of patient populations.