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Machine perfusion of the liver: past, present and future

Monbaliu, Dietharda; Brassil, Johnb

Current Opinion in Organ Transplantation: April 2010 - Volume 15 - Issue 2 - p 160–166
doi: 10.1097/MOT.0b013e328337342b
Organ preservation and procurement: Edited By Jacques Pirenne

Purpose of review This review considers the potential of machine perfusion to preserve livers for clinical transplantation, including steatotic or ischaemically damaged grafts and aims to go over the most significant achievements in liver machine perfusion over the last year. To reach acceptance in liver preservation, machine perfusion will need to improve outcomes compared with simple cold storage (SCS), provide objective measures of graft viability, and resuscitate less-than-ideal grafts before transplantation.

Recent findings Current machine perfusion protocols comprise both hypothermic (HMP) and normothermic (NMP) approaches. HMP increases energy stores compared to SCS, and NMP shows additional resuscitative potential. Dutkowski transplanted ischaemically damaged pig livers after HMP following SCS, which avoided graft failure observed after SCS alone. Guarrera performed 20 clinical transplants after 4–7 h HMP. Friend has performed porcine transplantations after NMP of 4–20 h and univocally demonstrated the significant resuscitative effects on ischaemically damaged grafts otherwise destined to fail. Whereas NMP promises resuscitative effects, it demands challenging, near-physiologic conditions. Subnormothermic perfusion is being tested as a promising medium in between.

Summary Despite recent substantial improvements, liver preservation by machine perfusion remains limited and in contrast to the global revival of kidney machine perfusion. However, liver machine perfusion may be close to returning to clinical practice if it has not already done so. History shows that superiority alone does not guarantee immediate clinical use. Further clear-cut benefits of machine perfusion such as viability assessment will have to be accompanied by usability and human factors, and innovative and improved perfusion solutions applied in novel perfusion protocols.

aDepartment of Abdominal Transplant Surgery and Transplant Coordination, University Hospitals Leuven, Catholic University Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

bFunctional Circulation, Evaston Illinois, USA

Correspondence to Diethard Monbaliu, Abdominal Transplant Surgery Department, University Hospitals Leuven, Herestraat 49, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium Tel: +32 16 348727; fax: +32 16 348743; e-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.