Two liver dialysis machines don't extend lives

Two liver dialysis machines made by Fresenius Medical Care and Gambro don't extend the lives of patients with liver failure, according to studies presented at the International Liver Congress in Vienna. Treatment with the devices, called Prometheus and Mars, cost about $15,448 for three dialysis treatments that can help patients survive until their liver can function on its own or a transplant organ can be found.

The prognosis for Mars seems worse than for Fresenius' Prometheus. Mars was removed from the European market after it was found patients were harmed by using the device. "People who now use Mars devices should stop using them," noted Andrew Burroughs, a professor at the Royal Free Hospital NHS Trust in London. Prometheus was found to have benefits, though further analysis of the study is necessary to determine which patients are most likely to benefit from the treatment.

"[The studies] tell us with almost 100 percent certainty that a simple device is not sufficient," noted Burroughs. He said that the root problem is the lack of livers availble for transplant, and that 50 percent of livers that are viable are not harvested. Dialysis machines can help clean the blood but are unable to replace vital hormones and enzymes that the liver naturally produces.

- here's the Bloomberg article