Ex vivo machine perfusion (MP) has been reported as a possibly method to rescue discarded organs. The main aim of this study was to report an initial experience in Spain using MP for the rescue of severely marginal discarded liver grafts, and to, secondarily, define markers of viability to test the potential applicability of these devices for the real increase in the organ donor pool.
The study began in January 2016. Discarded grafts were included in a research protocol that consisted of standard retrieval followed by 10 hours of cold ischemia. Next, either normothermic (NMP) or controlled subnormothermic (subNMP) rewarming was chosen randomly. Continuous measurements of portal-arterial pressure and resistance were screened. Lactate, pH, and bicarbonate were measured every 30 minutes. The perfusion period was 6 hours, after which the graft was discarded and evaluated as potentially usable, but never implanted. Biopsies of the donor and at 2, 4, and 6 hours after ex vivo MP were obtained.
A total of 4 grafts were included in the protocol. The first 2 grafts were perfused by NMP and grafts 3 and 4 by subNMP. The second and third grafts showed a clear trend toward optimal recovery and may have been used. Lactate dropped to levels below 2.5 mmol/L with stable arterial and portal pressure and resistance. Clear biliary output started during MP. Biopsies showed an improvement of liver architecture with reduced inflammation at the end of the perfusion.
This preliminary experience has demonstrated the potential of MP devices for the rescue of severely marginal liver grafts. Lactate and biliary output were useful for viability testing of the grafts. The utility of NMP or subNMP protocols requires further research.