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Scand J Gastroenterol. 2006 Oct;41(10):1212-7.

Treatment of severe refractory pruritus with fractionated plasma separation and adsorption (Prometheus).

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  • 1Divison of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine, Medical school, Hannover, Germany.



Severe pruritus is a serious complication of cholestatic liver disease. Prometheus is a recently introduced extracorporeal liver support system with direct toxin adsorption of the patient's albumin fraction (FPSA; fractionated plasma separation and adsorption). Here we report on the effect of Prometheus therapy in patients with intractable cholestatic pruritus.


Seven patients with different liver diseases and severe pruritus refractory to all medical treatment efforts for more than 4 weeks were treated with Prometheus (3-5 times, 18+/-3 h total). Pruritus intensity was assessed using the visual analogue scale (VAS; from 0 = no pruritus to 10 = unbearable pruritus), and VAS, serum bile acids and total bilirubin were evaluated directly before and after Prometheus treatment, as well as 4 weeks later.


After Prometheus therapy, VAS values had dropped significantly from 9+/-1 to 3+/-3 (p<0.001). Likewise, serum bile acids decreased (from 248+/-192 to 101+/-85 micromol/l; p<0.03). All patients, with the exception of one with no initial bile acid elevation, reported a pronounced improvement in pruritus with Prometheus therapy, although in two anicteric patients the amelioration lasted only a few days. In the other four patients a distinct benefit was still observed 4 weeks after the treatment.


Prometheus therapy significantly improved refractory pruritus in all patients with elevated bile acid levels, but in some patients the clinical benefit was of short duration. The clinical findings suggest that we have to better characterize those patients who might derive a long-lasting benefit from this invasive and expensive treatment.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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