This "game-changing" new medical procedure is expected to save thousands of people with its promise to halve the amount of patients on liver transplant lists waiting for a reprieve.
The procedure, which was approved for use in the UK this week, uses a perfusion machine to keep donated livers viable for transplantation for three times longer than current methods. The machine works by reducing the rate of tissue deterioration that occurs after the liver has been removed from the donor and extends how long the liver can be stored before transplantation.
Variations of the technique can also allow the liver to be flushed with blood at body temperature and supplied with oxygen, medications, and nutrients, which allows its viability and function to be assessed.
Liver transplantation is a highly successful treatment for end-stage liver disease, which kills 11,000 people a year in England. By the end of the 2017 fiscal year in March 2018, there were 1,043 liver transplants in the UK and 359 patients on the UK active transplant list, according to NHS Blood and Transplant.
Now that the procedure has been assessed and approved by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the organization issued final guidelines which recommend that the procedure be used under special arrangements as more data is gathered into its efficacy. However, NICE's independent advisory committee did not identify any major safety concerns.
Surgeons undertaking the procedure must inform patients about the uncertainty of the procedure's efficacy, comply with the relevant regulatory and legal requirements of the Human Tissue Authority and should enter details about all patients having this procedure into the NHSBT UK transplant registry.