UMC Is First In U.S. To Use Liver Dialysis To Treat Trauma Patient

George Humphrey
Dec. 1, 2000

A machine that assists the function of the liver is being used for the first time in Southern Arizona at University Medical Center. This also is the first time in the country the liver dialysis unit has been used to help support liver functions in a critically ill trauma victim.

Steven B. Johnson, M.D., associate professor of surgery in the Section of Trauma and chief of Surgical Critical Care at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, said the liver dialysis unit is being used on a gunshot victim who suffered injury to more than 70 percent of his liver.

The liver dialysis unit is the only liver-assist technology with FDA clearance for the treatment of patients suffering from liver decompensation or drug overdose. Physicians at UMC decided to employ the unit, which effectively clears toxins from the bloodstream, to help diminish the stress on the patient's injured liver and enable the liver to regenerate. "The liver dialysis unit basically is taking over many of the functions of the liver so that the patient can heal," explained Dr. Johnson. "The patient is receiving the last of three six-hour treatments today."

Dr. Johnson said UMC is always looking for new ways to treat critically ill patients. "Having the technology to provide liver dialysis gives UMC an effective tool for the treatment of patients with liver disease, drug overdoses, and with severe injuries to the liver."

The liver dialysis unit is a compact, mobile, self-contained system about the size of a dishwasher and can be wheeled to a patient's bedside. By removing toxins from the blood - whether those toxins come from inside or outside the body - liver dialysis can help prevent further clinical deterioration to multi-organ failure (kidneys, lungs, cardiovascular system, and brain) and death. Finely powdered activated charcoal and other chemicals remove toxins without coming into direct contact with the blood. Treatment is usually done for two to five consecutive days lasting 4-6 hours.

The unit has been used in only 23 hospitals in the U.S.




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