Extracorporeal Liver Support Systems in Paediatric Liver Failure

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Abstract

Extracorporeal liver support systems (ELSS), encompassing artificial and bioartificial devices, have been used for decades, with the aim of supporting patients with acute liver failure and acute-on chronic liver failure, as a bridge to recovery (acute liver failure only) or liver transplantation, in an era of organ donation shortage. Although biochemical efficacy has been consistently demonstrated by these devices, translation into clinical and survival benefits has been unclear, due to study limitations and lack of reliable prognostic scoring in liver failure. Consequently, extracorporeal devices are not widely accepted as routine therapy in adult liver failure. Recent large multicentre trials using artificial liver systems have not revealed beneficial outcomes associated with albumin dialysis but plasma exchange practices have shown some potential. In paediatric liver failure, data on extracorporeal systems is scarce, comprising few reports on albumin dialysis (namely, Molecular Adsorbent Recirculating System; MARS) and plasma exchange. When extrapolating data from adult studies differences in disease presentation, aetiology, prognosis and the suitability, and safety of such devices in children must be considered. The aim of this review is to critically appraise current practices of extracorporeal liver support systems to help determine efficacy in paediatric liver failure.

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