Detoxification of bilirubin and bile acids with intermittent coupled plasmafiltration and adsorption in liver failure (HERCOLE study)

J Nephrol. 2021 Feb;34(1):77-88. doi: 10.1007/s40620-020-00799-w. Epub 2020 Jul 24.


Background: CPFA is an extracorporeal treatment used in severe sepsis to remove circulating proinflammatory cytokines. Limited evidence exists on the effectiveness of bilirubin adsorption by the hydrophobic styrenic resin, the distinctive part of CPFA. The aim of this study is to validate CPFA effectiveness in liver detoxification.

Methods: In this prospective observational study, we enrolled patients with acute or acute-on-chronic liver failure (serum total bilirubin > 20 mg/dL or MELD Score > 20) hospitalized from June 2013 to November 2017. CPFA was performed using the Lynda (Bellco/MedTronic, Mirandola, Italy) or the Amplya (Bellco/MedTronic, Mirandola, Italy) machines. Anticoagulation was provided with unfractionated heparin or citrate. Bilirubin and bile acids reduction ratios per session (RRs) were the main parameters for hepatic detoxification.

Results: Twelve patients with acute (n = 3) or acute-on-chronic (n = 9) liver failure were enrolled. Alcohol was the main cause of liver disease. Thirty-one CPFA treatments of 6 h each were performed, 19 with heparin and 12 with citrate. RRs was 28.8% (range 2.2-40.5) for total bilirubin, 32.7% (range 8.3-48.9) for direct bilirubin, 29.5% (range 6.5-65.4) for indirect bilirubin and 28.9% (16.7- 59.7) for bile acids. One patient received liver transplantation and 8/9 were alive at 1 year of follow-up. Three patients (25%) died: 2 during hospitalization and 1 for a cardiac event at 4 months of follow up with restored liver function.

Conclusions: CPFA resulted to be effective in liver detoxification. Thus, it may be considered as a "bridge technique" both to the liver transplant and to the recovery of the basal liver function.

Keywords: Adsorption; Hemofiltration; Liver detoxification; Liver failure; Plasmafiltration.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Bilirubin
  • Hemofiltration*
  • Heparin / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Liver Failure* / therapy
  • Sorption Detoxification*


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Heparin
  • Bilirubin