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Liver Transpl. 2013 Feb;19(2):135-44. doi: 10.1002/lt.23527. Epub 2012 Sep 26.

Use of N-acetylcysteine during liver procurement: a prospective randomized controlled study.

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Department of Hepatobiliary Surgery and Liver Transplantation, University Hospital of Padua, Padua, Italy.


Antioxidant agents have the potential to reduce ischemia/reperfusion damage to organs for liver transplantation (LT). In this prospective, randomized study, we tested the impact of an infusion of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) during liver procurement on post-LT outcomes. Between December 2006 and July 2009, 140 grafts were transplanted into adult candidates with chronic liver disease who were listed for first LT, and according to a sequential, closed-envelope, single-blinded procedure, these patients were randomly assigned in a 1/1 ratio to an NAC protocol (69 patients) or to the standard protocol without NAC [71 patients (the control group)]. The NAC protocol included a systemic NAC infusion (30 mg/kg) 1 hour before the beginning of liver procurement and a locoregional NAC infusion (300 mg through the portal vein) just before cross-clamping. The primary endpoint was graft survival. The graft survival rates at 3 and 12 months were 93% and 90%, respectively, in the NAC group and 82% and 70%, respectively, in the control group (P = 0.02). An adjusted Cox analysis showed a significant NAC effect on graft survival at both 3 months [hazard ratio = 1.65, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.01-2.93, P = 0.04] and 12 months (hazard ratio = 1.73, 95% CI = 1.14-2.76, P ≤ 0.01). The incidence of postoperative complications was lower in the NAC group (23%) versus the control group (51%, P < 0.01). In the subgroup of 61 patients (44%) receiving suboptimal grafts (donor risk index > 1.8), the incidence of primary dysfunction of the liver was lower (P = 0.09) for the NAC group (15%) versus the control group (32%). In conclusion, the NAC harvesting protocol significantly improves graft survival. The effect of NAC on early graft function and survival seems higher when suboptimal grafts are used.


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