Pediatric Nephrology

, Volume 28, Issue 9, pp 1763–1769 | Cite as

The role of molecular adsorbent recirculating system dialysis for extracorporeal liver support in children

  • Betti Schaefer
  • Claus Peter SchmittEmail author
Educational Review


The majority of children with acute, acute-on-chronic, and progressive chronic liver failure require liver transplantation. Since organ availability is limited, extracorporeal liver support systems are increasingly applied to bridge the time until transplantation. At present, four different devices are available: the molecular adsorbent recirculating system (MARS), Prometheus dialysis, plasma exchange combined with hemodialysis (PE/HD), and single-pass albumin dialysis (SPAD). Randomized trials in adults have demonstrated efficient toxin removal, improved portal hypertension, hemodynamic stability, and improved hepatic encephalopathy compared with standard medical therapy. None of the liver support systems has yet been evaluated systematically in children. Knowledge of the specific indications and technical features of the different devices is essential if applied in children. MARS combines albumin dialysis with conventional hemodialysis and allows for efficient removal of water and protein-bound toxins without exogenous protein delivery and the associated infectious and allergic risks. It has successfully been applied in children with otherwise intractable cholestatic pruritus and with liver failure. The benefits, however, need to be balanced against the costs and the risk of volume and nitrogen overload if repeated plasma infusion is required. In cases of active bleeding, plasma exchange in combination with hemodialysis should be preferred.


Molecular adsorbent recirculating system (MARS) dialysis Liver failure Extracorporeal liver support Cholestatic pruritus Children 



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Copyright information

© IPNA 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Pediatric NephrologyCenter for Pediatric and Adolescent MedicineHeidelbergGermany

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