Antiviral therapy is important in patients with hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related decompensated cirrhosis. This therapy is beneficial in most patients for the stabilization or improvement of liver disease; however, advanced cirrhosis with a high Child–Pugh or model for end-stage liver disease (MELD) score may have progressed and does not benefit from antiviral therapy. It is important to identify patients with severe decompensated cirrhosis who will not improve under antiviral therapy and who require liver transplantation as early as possible. Entecavir (ETV) or tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) is the first-line therapy for nucleos(t)ide analogue (NA)-naive patients with decompensated cirrhosis due to their potent and prompt HBV suppressive effect and low rate of drug-resistant mutations. Patients on antiviral therapy should be monitored for virological and clinical response, compliance, drug resistance and adverse effects as well as surveillance for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Additional studies of TDF and ETV are necessary to determine the optimal agent(s) for treating naive patients and those with drug-resistant decompensated cirrhosis. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of NA for the treatment of decompensated cirrhotic patients in the real world, high quality observational studies such as registration studies of antiviral therapy for HBV-related cirrhosis and a long-term follow-up in China, where a large number of such patients are found, are recommended.