Author(s): Hui T
Orthotopic liver transplantation is the only definitive therapy for patients with fulminant hepatic failure (FHF). However, due to shortage of organs, a large number of patients die before a liver can be procured for transplantation. In FHF the need for a liver is particularly urgent because of rapid deterioration in the patients' condition with the onset of cerebral edema and intracranial hypertension leading to irreversible brain damage. It is thus necessary to develop an extracorporeal liver support system to help maintain patients alive and neurologically intact until an organ becomes available for transplantation. Multiple attempts have been made, ranging from the use of plasma exchange to utilization of charcoal columns and extracorporeal devices loaded with liver tissue to develop liver support systems for treating patients with acute severe liver failure. None of these systems has achieved wide clinical use, and FHF due to multiple causes continues to be associated with significant morbidity and mortality. In this paper, the authors review the history of extracorporeal liver support for acute liver failure and discuss their experience with a hollow fiber bioartificial liver support system utilizing porcine hepatocytes in the treatment of patients with acute liver failure.