Liver dialysis is a procedure similar to kidney dialysis where the blood is carried out to be filtered through a machine to remove the accumulated toxins, lipids, albumin, and metabolites. This can be a temporary solution to a failed liver for a few months until the liver transplantation procedure. Or in cases where there is damage to the liver, the liver dialysis process helps in blood detoxification until the liver regenerates itself.
The liver is the organ in the human body responsible for balancing chemical substances in the blood, blood filtration, removal of any bacteria and toxins, and the breaking down of chemical compounds found in drugs. It also produces bile responsible to carry away waste to be excreted and helps in lipids breakdown in the intestines. The liver also converts glucose into glycogen to be stored, stores iron, and helps regulate blood clotting.
Liver diseases either acute or chronic must be taken seriously and treated as early as possible to avoid: hepatic encephalopathy (stacking of toxins in the body without excretion) which affects the nervous system function and may lead to coma, ascites (failure to flush away sodium which leads to edema in the hands, legs, and belly), cancer (some liver diseases as cirrhosis make the liver more susceptible to cancer), and liver failure.
Liver failure is a condition where the liver is shutting down and fails to accomplish the vital functions it is responsible for. Liver failure is a life-threatening condition. It may cause; yellow coloring in the eye and skin, confusion, severe fatigue, ascites, and an increased tendency to bleed. The only treatment for liver failure is through a liver transplant.
The goals of a liver dialysis is to help the body survive until a liver transplant surgery can be performed.
For a failing liver, a liver transplant is the only solution. However, this is a very complicated process and takes a long time until a matching donor is found. Liver dialysis is meant to be a temporary solution and not a treatment.
When the liver is failing to accomplish its functions, this will lead to an imbalance in the chemical compounds and accumulation of toxins in the blood which leads to a series of life-threatening complications. Liver dialysis aims to carry the blood outside the body to pass through a machine that acts as an artificial liver. This machine contains several filters to purify the blood to remove: toxins, cytokines, bilirubin, bile acids, medium chains fatty acids, and metabolites of amino acids.
The flushing away of the harmful substances in the blood buys the body some time until the liver transplant procedure. A typical liver dialysis session takes around 6 hours.
In some cases, liver dialysis may be considered as a treatment. This happens when there is mild damage to the liver, so 1-2 sessions of liver dialysis is performed to take away the load from the liver and give it time to regenerate and heal.
Nutrition and lifestyle changes are mandatory to reduce the workload for the failing liver. These may include:
You should pay attention to the site where the catheter was placed to avoid infection.
How long does one session of liver dialysis usually take?
One session of liver dialysis may take up to 6 hours to extract your blood, purify it and then pump it back to your body again.
The number of sessions depends on the condition. If the liver failed, you will have to continue the dialysis session until you receive your liver transplant. If the liver is merely experiencing a temporary condition, usually one or two sessions of liver dialysis will be sufficient to allow your liver some time to heal, please consult your doctor for more information.
Can liver dialysis be considered a treatment for liver failure?
Liver dialysis is not a definitive treatment for liver failure. It is rather considered a temporary solution to flush away toxins from the body until a liver transplant surgery is feasible.
In case of acute liver or mild liver disease, one or two sessions of liver dialysis are performed to give the liver a chance to heal and regain its functions.