We have developed a bioartificial liver support system (BAL) using porcine hepatocytes attached to microcarriers and placed on the outer surface of hollow fibers. The BAL system was attached to a plasmapheresis device that was then used to treat the plasma of a patient with acute liver failure. Our aim was to test the efficacy and safety of this system after a single short treatment period. A patient with alcohol-induced, severe, acute liver failure manifested by coagulopathy, rising plasma ammonia level, and deteriorating mental status was studied. The procedure was well tolerated by the patient, who remained hemodynamically stable throughout the treatment period. A marked increase in coagulation factor V, VII, VIII, and IX activities, a decrease in serum ammonia level (120 to 32 mumol/L), a twofold increase in all serum amino acids except for aminobutyric acid, and an improvement in mental status were noted after a 6-hour treatment period. This preliminary report of the first use of this novel BAL system in conjunction with plasmapheresis appears promising. A clinical study is now in progress to prove its efficacy.