New Technique for Preserving Livers for Transplanting


Preserving organs on ice before transplantation, an approach known as cold storage, has been the standard practice in liver transplantation for 20 years. New evidence shows that a technique called hypothermic machine perfusion may offer an improvement, according to the first study comparing the impact of the two techniques on transplant outcomes.

The phase I study was led by James V. Guarrera, M.D., assistant professor of surgery and surgical director of adult liver transplantation at NewYork-Presbyterian. Researchers found that the perfusion method was at least as good as cold storage in preserving donor livers and most likely better, which could expand the availability of organs for transplantation.

Hypothermic machine perfusion technique — HMP — provides a continuous flow of oxygen and key nutrients to the liver while diluting and removing toxins and waste products. The study compared 20 transplant patients who received HMP-preserved livers with 20 patients with CS-preserved livers, finding the first group experienced shorter hospital stays and fewer long-term complications. The HMP group also had lower levels of blood markers indicating injury to the liver that may have occurred during the preservation interval.

The findings were reported in the February 2010 issue of the American Journal of Transplantation.