Is New Liver Support Device The Answer For Liver Transplant Candidates?

Two liver transplants performed in February 2013 at King’s College Hospital in England are remarkable because each human liver was temporarily supported ex vivo (outside of a human body) by a new support device liver device report . Both livers were kept alive with blood circulating (perfusing) through them at body temperature for the hours between being recovered from the deceased donor and subsequent transplantation into the waiting patients. Currently, a high proportion of organs available for transplantation are declined because of a high fat content (e.g., fatty liver) that literally congeals with the prevailing storage method in icy cold solution. Avoidance of cold with this new device might permit utilization of more of these available fatty livers – a major step towards saving lives.

Today we commonly utilize kidney perfusion devices that have been shown to improve the outcomes of transplants and to reduce the likelihood of transiently requiring dialysis after the transplant, until the organ recovers. In fact, the most commonly used device, the LifePort kidney support device has been on display at MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art) because it is so beautifully designed. With this and other devices, more kidneys of questionable quality are transplanted. We can both extend the time period between procurement and transplantation, and interpret measurements generated from the pump to determine the kidney’s viability. But an equivalent had not been available in liver transplantation.

The bottom line is that we have thus far become aware that the new liver support device from OrganOx appears not to have harmed the two transplant patients or their livers that functioned after being supported with it. The report is that both patients are making excellent progress. Whether or not the potentials for 1) prolongation of transplant time frames and 2) range of usable organs will be fulfilled as well remains to be seen.

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