Scientists have developed a new procedure that could have a huge impact on liver transplants. Researchers say that by using a perfusion machine, they were able to keep a donated liver viable for up to 24 hours, also allowing treatment and repair of the organ directly in the machine. This could increase the number of patients that receive transplants.
The British National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have now issued the final guidelines for the technique, which is called ex-vivo machine perfusion for extracorporeal preservation of livers for transplantation. NICE has not identified any major safety concerns and the institute recommends the use of the procedure under special arrangements to gather more data about its efficacy.
“This procedure offers hope for patients needing a liver transplant. It offers another way of preserving the liver and assessing whether livers which might have previously been considered unsuitable, can be used safely,” Professor Kevin Harris, program director and clinical advisor for the Interventional Procedures Programme at NICE, said in a statement.
“The latest evidence reviewed by a NICE committee concluded that the procedure worked well and was safe to be offered to patients who had been fully informed of the risks and benefits. By using this procedure, more patients on the organ transplant waiting list could be offered a chance of a transplant and there-by potentially extending their lives.”
A few months ago, the researchers announced that a study was underway with over 20 patients taking part. The results will be published soon but so far, the work has generated a lot of hope and excitement.
"In the 30 years I've been involved with transplantation there have been three or four events which have been game changers and I'm absolutely certain we are looking at a game changer that will change the way we practice organ storage and transplantation,” Darius Mirza, an honorary professor at the University of Birmingham, added. "It is already changing practice at the centres that have been able to use this technology either within clinical trials or within an expansion of service evaluation."
It is estimated that 11,000 people die each year in England due to end-stage liver disease. The latest figures show that 22 percent of people waiting for a liver transplant either died or were removed from the waiting list because their health had deteriorated so much.