Albumin Dialysis for Liver Failure: A Systematic Review

Adv Chronic Kidney Dis. 2015 Sep;22(5):382-90. doi: 10.1053/j.ackd.2015.05.004.


Albumin dialysis is the best-studied extracorporeal nonbiologic liver support system as a bridge or destination therapy for patients with liver failure awaiting liver transplantation or recovery of liver function. We performed a systematic review to examine the efficacy and safety of 3 albumin dialysis systems (molecular adsorbent recirculating system [MARS], fractionated plasma separation, adsorption and hemodialysis [Prometheus system], and single-pass albumin dialysis) in randomized trials for supportive treatment of liver failure. PubMed, Ovid, EMBASE, Cochrane's Library, and were searched. Two authors independently screened citations and extracted data on patient characteristics, quality of reports, efficacy, and safety end points. Ten trials (7 of MARS and 3 of Prometheus) were identified (620 patients). By meta-analysis, albumin dialysis achieved a net decrease in serum total bilirubin level relative to standard medical therapy of 8.0 mg/dL (95% confidence interval [CI], -10.6 to -5.4) but not in serum ammonia or bile acids. Albumin dialysis achieved an improvement in hepatic encephalopathy relative to standard medical therapy with a risk ratio of 1.55 (95% CI, 1.16-2.08) but had no effect survival with a risk ratio of 0.95 (95% CI, 0.84-1.07). Because of inconsistency in the reporting of adverse events, the safety analysis was limited but did not demonstrate major safety concerns. Use of albumin dialysis as supportive treatment for liver failure is successful at removing albumin-bound molecules, such as bilirubin and at improving hepatic encephalopathy. Additional experience is required to guide its optimal use and address safety concerns.

Keywords: Albumin dialysis; First-pass albumin dialysis; Liver failure; MARS; Prometheus.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Albumins / therapeutic use*
  • Dialysis / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Liver Failure / diagnosis
  • Liver Failure / mortality
  • Liver Failure / surgery
  • Liver Failure / therapy*
  • Liver Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Liver Transplantation / methods*
  • Male
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Assessment
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Waiting Lists*


  • Albumins