Pumping donated livers increased operation success

A landmark trial has discovered that keeping donated livers alive in a normothermic perfusion machine prior to transplants increases the chances of a successful operation.

Published in the journal Nature, the randomised controlled trial involved 222 liver transplants in seven European centres and involved putting donated livers in a perfusion machine, pumping the organs with blood, nutrients and medicines, rather than putting them in ice as is common.

Scientists argue that more of the ’warm’ livers went on to be transplanted and showed less damage than the ‘cold’ ones, in a trial that could potentially ‘transform’ how organ transplants are carried out.

The study found there was 50 per cent less tissue damage in the ‘warm’ livers, with scientists also able to successfully transplant more of the warm livers than cold ones. Only 16 out of 137 warm livers needed to be discarded, compared with 32 out of 133 cold ones, meaning 222 transplants were able to go ahead.

Professor Peter Friend, one of the authors of the trial, said that approximately 20 per cent of patients die while waiting for a liver transplant. Liver perfusion is currently performed on the NHS in a small number of specialist centres in the UK, and is known to be very expensive.

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