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Curr Opin Crit Care. 2002 Apr;8(2):171-7.

Extracorporeal support of the failing liver.

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  • 1Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, University of Rostock, Rostock, Germany.


Successes in machine-based extracorporeal support for different organ functions stimulated research in the field of liver support approximately 50 years ago. Initial failure to improve outcome using detoxification methods like dialysis, blood and plasma exchange, or plasmapheresis over sorbents fueled interest in biologic liver support concepts using bioreactors or combined methods. New device configurations, technical improvement of existing detoxification methods, and the refinement in cell culture techniques led to a boost in research on biologic and nonbiologic approaches. Currently, many systems are in the preclinical phase or have entered clinical studies. A number of completed clinical trials have reported a favorable therapeutic impact of the most advanced solutions on the course and outcome of liver failure. Often, findings must be reconfirmed. However, current knowledge suggests that extracorporeal liver support can successfully stabilize liver function, improve the clinical condition of patients, and considerably improve survival in certain subgroups of patients with fulminant hepatic failure and acute decompensation of chronic hepatic failure. Although the initial focus of liver support methods was bridging to liver transplantation, bridging to recovery of organ function and treatment of intractable pruritus are now valuable indications.

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