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Hemoglobin Oxygen Therapeutics LLC

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approves organ perfusion for use on the NHS, stating that perfusion machines could increase the number of livers that can be safely used for transplantation

January 16, 2019

A new procedure for storing livers donated for transplant has been hailed a “game changer” and approved for use on the NHS.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) say perfusion machines could increase the number of livers that can be safely used for transplantation.

They store donated livers at body temperature, which slows the deterioration of the organ.

Usually donor livers are kept on ice.

This can cause damage to the liver and limit how long it can be stored.

About 20% of patients die while waiting for a liver transplant and about a third of donated livers are unable to be used for transplantation.

These could include livers taken from elderly people or those in poor health and those damaged while the organ was removed from the donor’s body or while being kept in ice.

The perfusion machine allows the liver to recover from any damage and it can be flushed with blood at body temperature and given oxygen, medications and nutrients allowing its viability and function to be assessed.

This could mean that livers that might have previously been considered unsuitable can be used safely.

The machines can also extend how long the liver can be stored to allow more flexibility in the timing of the transplant operation.

Prof Kevin Harris, at NICE, said: “It offers another way of preserving the liver and assessing whether livers which might have previously been considered unsuitable can be used safely.

“By using this procedure, more patients on the organ transplant waiting list could be offered a chance of a transplant and thereby potentially extending their lives.”

Darius Mirza, professor of transplant surgery at University Hospitals Birmingham, said the machine was a “game changer”.

“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 practise organ storage and transplantation.”

Liver perfusion is currently performed on the NHS in a small number of specialist centres in the UK.

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