MHL provides information, suggestions and introductions, but we are not doctors and we cannot give medical advice.
MHL (PPM Consult Ltd.) introduces patients to hospitals and treatment centres with the latest medical technologies, special expertise or where we believe the standards of care or medical equipment to be exceptional.
We do not arrange or provide diagnostic services or treatments ourselves and we shall not be responsible for the outcome of any treatment or for failure to diagnose or treat.
One of the major functions of the liver is to filter toxins from the body. When liver function fails, the kidneys are able to remove some of these, but they cannot remove them all, so toxins build up to dangerous levels.
As with kidney dialysis, blood is withdrawn from the body, passed through a special filter and then pumped back. However the filtration process is different.
Whilst renal dialysis removes water soluble toxins, liver dialysis is able to remove protein-bound materials as well.
The MARS system
MARS (the molecular adsorbent recirculating system) was developed at the University in Germany where we pass most new patient enquiries. It is the most widely-used extracorporeal liver support system.
Within the human body, albumin circulating in the blood traps toxins and elimination of these is one of the functions of a healthy liver.
The MARS system therefore uses albumin to draw these toxins out of the blood as it passes through the filtration system.
As a result, the patient's own albumin can be regenerated and improvements in liver, brain and kidney function have been reported.
Treatment is usually given on an outpatient basis at a facility specialising in albumin dialysis. After treatment, the patient is instructed to wait for an hour in order to avoid the risk of complications.
After the waiting period, the patient can be discharged. The patient can leave the hospital to spend the night in his hotel room.
In cases that require medical monitoring, the patient may choose to remain after treatment in hospital.
How often is liver dialysis needed?
Unlike renal dialysis, liver dialysis is not necessarily a long term treatment. Support may only be required for a few days.
Patients with continuing liver deficiency may require further treatments, but how soon they need to return varies from patient to patient. Typically the interval between treatments is 3 or 4 months.
Availability is increasing worldwide, often as part of clinical trials, but it is not yet widespread, like renal dialysis.
Liver diaysis is not suitable for all patients and research is on-going into the most appropriate patient selection and other forms of treatment which might be used alongside.
What can it achieve?
Liver dialysis can help to stabilise patients who are waiting for a liver transplant.
The temporary relief provided by liver dialysis can sometimes allow the liver to recover, without the need to proceed to transplant surgery.
Liver dialysis (extracorporeal albumin dialysis) also works as an effective treatment for itching associated with liver disease and it has proven effective in otherwise resistant cases of pruritus.
A typical course of treatment
Check-up and treatment planning.
First treatment, for about 6 hours. Patients often report feeling a lot better after just 2 hours.
Second treatment, for about 6 hours. In some cases the second treatment is sufficient but patients will often require a third treatment the following day.
Third treatment, as above.
Control and monitoring. Liver dialysis requires access to a major vein and it is important to ensure that there are no problems or complications before patients leave.
Patients are free to return home.
This treatment removes toxins from the blood, but afterwards toxins in the rest of the body drain into the blood, so the treatment is repeated the next day.
Liver dialysis can be of immense benefit for patients with acute liver failure, whilst awaiting a suitable donor for transplant or who do not qualify for a transplant.
When the liver fails to function correctly, one result can be pruritus. This can be very difficult to treat by other means, but liver dialysis removes the cause of irritation.
Visiting liver dialysis service
For some patients who are unable to travel for treatment it may be possible to arrange for a specialist to visit them in hospital with the necessary equipment.
This needs considerable coordination and cooperation with the host hospital, so it would always be by special arrangement.
A new programme to provide a visiting liver dialysis service is currently in preparation and we hope to provide further details shortly. In the meantime patients are invited to enquire below.
NOTE: The number of daily treatments required varies between patients, depending upon their medical condition on arrival and how their case responds to treatment.
We are expanding our service rapidly, so please ask for further information.
Liver dialysis is not widely available in the USA but we can help patients to make enquiries in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas and more locations.
Other liver dialysis systems
Whilst MARS is the most commonly used liver dialysis system, some hospitals use a rival system Prometheus.
Clinical trials are also ongoing in some places using liver dialysis systems based upon cultured liver cells from human or other sources.