Background The susceptibility of extended criteria livers to ischemia reperfusion injury is a major obstacle in organ cold preservation. Normothermic extracorporeal liver perfusion (NELP) has been investigated to reduce ischemic damage, restore physiologic function, and assess viability of the liver prior to transplant. The goal of this study is to compare physiological parameters of livers maintained continuously on NELP to those preserved in cold solution. Methods Livers from 9 female landrace pigs were subjected to either 20 minutes (W20-NELP), 40 minutes (W40-NELP), or 60 minutes (W60-NELP) of warm ischemia followed by 6 hours of NELP followed by a 2-hour NELP evaluation phase. This was compared with 3 livers subjected to 40 minutes of warm ischemia time followed by 6 hours of cold storage (W40-Cold) and a 2-hour NELP evaluation phase. Groups were compared with the 2-way analysis of variance test. Results NELP stabilized transaminases accompanied by significant improvement in bile production and decline in lactate and INR values in all W-NELP groups. Histologic analysis demonstrated significant improvement from 0 hour (mild-to-moderate sinusoidal dilation and zone 3 necrosis) to the end of the NELP run (minimal necrosis and mild IRI). Comparison of W40-NELP and W40-Cold revealed greater bile production and oxygen extraction ratio in W40-NELP. In contrast, markers of cellular and functional damage were increased in the W40-Cold group. Conclusion NELP improves metabolic and functional parameters of livers with either short or extended warm ischemia times compared with livers subjected to comparable cold ischemia times.
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