Continuous renal replacement therapy and therapeutic plasma exchange in pediatric liver failure

Eur J Pediatr. 2024 May 8. doi: 10.1007/s00431-024-05587-3. Online ahead of print.


Patients with acute liver failure (ALF) and acute on chronic liver failure (ACLF) have significant morbidity and mortality. They require extracorporeal blood purification modalities like continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT) and therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) as a bridge to recovery or liver transplantation. Limited data are available on the outcomes of patients treated with these therapies. This is a retrospective single-center study of 23 patients from 2015 to 2022 with ALF/ACLF who underwent CRRT and TPE. We aimed to describe the clinical characteristics and outcomes of these patients. Median (IQR) age was 0.93 years (0.57, 9.88), range 16 days to 20 years. Ten (43%) had ALF and 13 (57%) ACLF. Most (n = 19, 82%) started CRRT for hyperammonemia and/or hepatic encephalopathy and all received TPE for refractory coagulopathy. CRRT was started at a median of 2 days from ICU admission, and TPE started on the same day in most. The liver transplant was done in 17 (74%), and 2 recovered native liver function. Four patients, all with ACLF, died prior to ICU discharge without a liver transplant. The median peak ammonia pre-CRRT was 131 µmol/L for the whole cohort. The mean (SD) drop in ammonia after 48 h of CRRT was 95.45 (43.72) µmol/L in those who survived and 69.50 (21.70) µmol/L in those who did not (p 0.26). Those who survived had 0 median co-morbidities compared to 2.5 in non-survivors (aOR (95% CI) for mortality risk of 2.5 (1.1-5.7), p 0.028). Conclusion: In this cohort of 23 pediatric patients with ALF or ACLF who received CRRT and TPE, 83% survived with a liver transplant or recovered with their native liver. Survival was worse in those who had ACLF and those with co-morbid conditions. What is Known: • Pediatric acute liver failure is associated with high mortality. • Patients may require extracorporeal liver assist therapies (like CRRT, TPE, MARS, SPAD) to bridge them over to a transplant or recovery of native liver function. What is New: • Standard volume plasma exhange has not been evaluated against high volume plasma exchange for ALF. • The role, dose, and duration of therapeutic plasma exchange in patients with acute on chronic liver failure is not well described.

Keywords: Acute kidney injury; Acute liver failure; Continuous kidney replacement therapy; Liver transplant; Therapeutic plasma exchange.