Acute liver failure is the loss of liver function that can cause death within days or even hours. Standard treatment consists of intensive supportive care intended to keep patients alive long enough that the liver might recover spontaneously or a donor organ becomes available for transplantation. About 80 percent of patients will die unless they receive a liver transplant.
A bioartificial liver along with pig stem cells significantly reduced death among patients suffering from acute liver failure in a new study.Survival at 30 days in patients who received the bioartificial liver was 71 percent compared to 62 percent for those who received standard care. Researchers found the bioartificial liver provided a 44-percent reduction in death among patients with fulminant or subfulminant failure.Liver failure is termed fulminant when the dysfunction occurs within the first eight weeks after onset. When it occurs between eight weeks and six months, it is termed subfulminant, or late-onset.
In the trial , researchers studied 147 patients who suffered from fulminant and subfulminant liver failure and 24 patients whose livers failed after transplantation. Of the 171 patients, 85 received the artificial liver and 86 received standard care.Pig liver cells were inserted to detoxify the patient's plasma and replace missing nutrients.