Researchers highlight liver perfusion could save seven in ten rejected donor livers

A research project funded by the Wellcome Trust, involving the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Liver and Gastrointestinal Research, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS FT and the NIHR Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre have found positive results with liver perfusion.

The study found that four to six hours of normothermic machine perfusion assessment enabled 70% of currently discarded livers to recover enough to allow successful transplantation into a recipient.

The study, “Transplantation of discarded livers following viability testing with normothermic machine perfusion”, was published last month in Nature Communications. It highlights that the findings could have implications for the liver transplant waiting list and the commissioning of local transplant services, with 1/3 donated livers currently not meeting the criteria.

Mr Hynek Mergental, Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham and Consultant Surgeon at the UHB Liver Unit said: “Whilst liver transplantation is one of the most advanced surgical procedures, up to now, there has been no objective mean to assess suitability of donor livers for transplantation.”

“The VITTAL trial validated our pre-clinical research and pilot clinical observations and these viability criteria can now guide transplant teams worldwide to provide access to the life-saving transplantation to more patients in need.”

Mr Thamara Perera, Consultant Transplant Surgeon at UHB explains: “This ground breaking trial has proven that objective parameters can be used for making a decision to use a borderline liver. The observed 100% study participants post-transplant survival was reassuring and provided our patients and the surgical team with confidence to implement and further expand this approach, which now helps the sickest patients on our waiting list to underwent transplantation sooner and safer.”

“Each year a small number of donated organs are not transplanted for a variety of reasons. Transplant success relies on a significant amount of activity taking place in a short space of time. New techniques are already allowing us to transplant donated organs that would not have been possible in the past. More research in this area is likely to increase that ability.”