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Extracorporeal liver support in patients with liver failure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials



Acute liver failure (ALF) and acute on chronic liver failure (ACLF) are associated with significant mortality and morbidity. Extracorporeal liver support (ECLS) devices have been used as a bridge to liver transplant; however, the efficacy and safety of ECLS are unclear. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to examine the efficacy and safety of ECLS in liver failure.


We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials from inception through March 13, 2019. RCTs comparing ECLS to usual care in ALF or ACLF were included. We used the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation approach to assess the certainty of the evidence.


We identified 25 RCTs (1796 patients). ECLS use was associated with reduction in mortality (RR 0.84; 95% CI 0.74, 0.96, moderate certainty) and improvement in hepatic encephalopathy (HE) (RR 0.71; 95% CI 0.60, 0.84, low certainty) in patients with ALF or ACLF. The effect of ECLS on hypotension (RR 1.46; 95% CI 0.98, 2.2, low certainty), bleeding (RR 1.21; 95% CI 0.88, 1.66, moderate certainty), thrombocytopenia (RR 1.62; 95% CI 1.0, 2.64, very low certainty) and line infection (RR 1.92; 95% CI 0.11, 33.44, low certainty) was uncertain.


ECLS may reduce mortality and improve HE in patients with ALF and ACLF. The effect on other outcomes is uncertain. However, the evidence is limited by risk of bias and imprecision, and larger trials are needed to better determine the effect of ECLS on patient-important outcomes.

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Alshamsi, F., Alshammari, K., Belley-Cote, E. et al. Extracorporeal liver support in patients with liver failure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. Intensive Care Med 46, 1–16 (2020).

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  • Extracorporeal liver support
  • Acute liver failure
  • Acute on chronic liver failure
  • Albumin dialysis
  • Hemoperfusion
  • Exchange transfusion