Hybrid Extracorporeal Therapies as a Bridge to Pediatric Liver Transplantation

Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2018 Jul;19(7):e342-e349. doi: 10.1097/PCC.0000000000001546.


Objectives: Standard intensive care treatment is inadequate to keep children with liver failure alive without catastrophic complications to ensure successful transplant, as accumulation of endogenous protein-bound toxins often lead to hepatic encephalopathy, hepatorenal syndrome, cardiovascular instability, and multiple organ failure. Given paucity of proven treatment modalities for liver failure, blood purification using different extracorporeal treatments as a bridge to transplantation is used, but studies evaluating the safety and efficacy of combination of these therapies, especially in pediatric liver failure, are lacking. We describe our experience at a major tertiary children's hospital, where a unique hybrid extracorporeal treatment protocol has been instituted and followed for acute liver failure or acute-on-chronic liver failure as a bridge to transplantation. This protocol combines high-flux continuous renal replacement therapy for hyperammonemia, therapeutic plasma exchange for coagulopathy, and albumin-assisted dialysis (molecular adsorbent recirculating system) for hepatic encephalopathy.

Design: Retrospective observational study.

Setting: Freestanding tertiary children's hospital and liver transplant referral center.

Patients: All patients with acute liver failure/acute-on-chronic liver failure receiving hybrid extracorporeal therapy over 24 months.

Intervention: Hybdrid extracorporeal therapy.

Measurements and main results: Fifteen children (age 3 yr [0.7-9 yr]; 73% male) with acute liver failure/acute-on-chronic liver failure who were either listed or actively considered for listing and met our protocol criteria were treated with hybrid extracorporeal therapy; 93% were ventilated, and 80% were on vasoactive support. Of these, two patients recovered spontaneously, four died prior to transplant, and nine were successfully transplanted; 90-day survival post orthotopic liver transplant was 100%. Overall survival to hospital discharge was 73%.

Conclusions: Hybrid extracorporeal therapies can be effectively implemented in pediatric liver failure as a bridge to transplantation. Overall complexity and heavy resource utilization need to be carefully considered in instituting these therapies in suitable candidates.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Acute-On-Chronic Liver Failure / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Extracorporeal Circulation / methods*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Liver Transplantation / methods*
  • Plasma Exchange / methods*
  • Preoperative Period
  • Renal Replacement Therapy / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies