Extracorporeal liver support-albumin dialysis with the Molecular Adsorbent Recirculating System (MARS).
Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, University of Rostock, Rostock, Germany.
Extracorporeal liver support has been a much studied topic throughout the last 50 years. Albumin dialysis as a therapeutic option for patients with acute liver failure or acute decompensation of chronic liver disease was introduced in the mid-nineties.
The Molecular Adsorbent Recirculating System (MARS) is based on the concept of albumin dialysis and allows for the removal of protein-bound as well as water-soluble toxins. Besides its role as a sufficient volume expander human serum albumin is an important scavenger for molecules with pathophysiological relevance in liver failure. Albumin dialysis enables the selective regeneration of patient's albumin resulting in an increase of albumin binding capacity. Clinically, an improvement of central and local hemodynamics as well as liver-, brain-, and kidney-functions were observed. Thus, the treatment can contribute to liver regeneration and stabilization of vital organ functions and thus help to bridge patients to liver transplantation or to recovery of native liver function. Proper patient selection is critical for clinical success. Aggressive treatment of infections and sepsis seems to be a decisive pre-requisite for its safe and efficient use. Cautious anticoagulation with heparin is the common standard. Citrate use is recommended for patients prone to bleeding. Today, albumin dialysis MARS is among the best studied liver support methods. It appears as a valuable therapeutic tool for the treatment of various complications of of liver failure, especially hemodynamic instability and hepatic encephalopathy. Further studies will need to help defining the optimal patient selection and technical process parameters such as session length and frequency of treatment.