OBJECTIVE - The authors developed an extracorporeal liver support system and tested its efficacy in experimental animals with liver failure. The first clinical use of this system to treat a patient with liver failure is reported.
SUMMARY BACKGROUND DATA - Multiple attempts have been made, ranging from plasma exchange to use of charcoal columns, to develop liver support systems for treating patients with acute severe liver failure. None of these systems has achieved wide clinical use. There is a need for providing liver support as a "bridge" to transplantation and for treating patients with potentially reversible liver dysfunction.
METHODS - A hybrid liver support system has been developed consisting of plasma perfusion through a charcoal column and a porous hollow fiber module inoculated with 5 x 10(9) matrix-attached hepatocytes. The system was tested in dogs with ischemic liver failure (n = 7) who underwent plasmapheresis; a control group (n = 6) underwent charcoal perfusion alone. A patient with liver failure was treated with this hybrid system.
RESULTS - After 6 hours of hybrid liver support treatment, animals had significantly decreased serum ammonia and lactate levels, increased glucose level, normal prothrombin time, and increased systolic blood pressure compared with controls treated with charcoal perfusion alone. Use of the system to treat a patient was well tolerated with evidence of clinical improvement.
CONCLUSIONS - Plasma perfusion through a system consisting of a charcoal column and matrix-attached porcine hepatocytes had significant beneficial effects in animals with liver failure and was well tolerated by a patient with liver failure.