The principle behind treating blood outside the body can be used for more than just treating chronic kidney failure. This method of treatment can also be used to temporarily support the liver and filter certain pathogens from the blood. Liver support therapy and adsorber therapy are similar to hemodialysis.
Liver Support Therapy
The liver fulfills vital functions within the body including the production of proteins, the conversion and storage of metabolic products and – together with the kidneys – the detoxification of the blood. Acute or chronic liver failure can be caused by hepatitis, excessive alcohol consumption, poisoning, cancer or other reasons. A liver transplant is the only effective therapy for severe liver failure to date. However, in the past few years, scientists have developed blood-cleaning procedures that allow a patient to survive for at least several days or even weeks to bridge the time until the organ has recovered, or a donor organ has been found.
The Prometheus system – developed by Fresenius scientists in cooperation with the Danube University Krems – is one of the newest liver-support systems on the market. In contrast to dialysis used in kidney failure, liver failure also requires the removal of toxins that are bound to albumin, a transporting protein in the blood. Thus, the Prometheus system combines a typical dialysis procedure with an adsorber treatment. At first, the Prometheus machine pumps the blood through a newly developed filter (AlbuFlow) that retains blood cells and large protein molecules. The blood liquid, or plasma, along with albumin and smaller protein molecules is then fed through two adsorbers that separate toxins from the albumin and bind them. Following adsorption, the blood plasma with the detoxified albumin is joined with the blood cells retained by the AlbuFlow filter. Finally, the blood is dialyzed to remove the remaining water-soluble toxins, and the filtered blood is then reintroduced into the patient.
Adsorber therapy is a new and innovative therapy concept for selectively removing undesirable and pathogenic substances from blood outside the body without supplying substances. It is generally used for patients with diseases where drug treatment methods have failed or were not enough.
In all adsorber treatments, the blood flows through a tube from a vein in the arm of the patient into the adsorber. The various adsorbers contain different materials which, like a sponge, selectively extract the unwanted and pathogenic substances from the blood. The cleansed blood is then returned to the patient through a vein in the other arm. A special machine pumps the blood through the adsorber and monitors the blood circulation outside the body.