Preserving the morphology and evaluating the quality of liver grafts by hypothermic machine perfusion: A proof-of-concept study using discarded human livers


  • Diethard Monbaliu and Jacques Pirenne are holders of a chair abdominal transplant surgery from the Centrale Afdeling voor Fractionering (Vilvoorde, Belgium).

  • This research was financially supported by grant IWT 040350 from the Institute for the Promotion of Innovation by Science and Technology in Flanders and by unrestricted educational grants from Roche and Astellas (Belgium).


The wider use of livers from expanded criteria donors and donation after circulatory death donors may help to improve access to liver transplantation. A prerequisite for safely using these higher risk livers is the development of objective criteria for assessing their condition before transplantation. Compared to simple cold storage, hypothermic machine perfusion (HMP) provides a unique window for evaluating liver grafts between procurement and transplantation. In this proof-of-concept study, we tested basic parameters during HMP that may reflect the condition of human liver grafts, and we assessed their morphology after prolonged HMP. Seventeen discarded human livers were machine-perfused. Eleven livers were nontransplantable (major absolute contraindications and severe macrovesicular steatosis in the majority of the cases). Six livers were found in retrospect to be transplantable but could not be allocated and served as controls. Metabolic parameters (pH, lactate, partial pressure of oxygen, and partial pressure of carbon dioxide), enzyme release in the perfusate [aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)], and arterial/portal resistances were monitored during HMP. Nontransplantable livers released more AST and LDH than transplantable livers. In contrast, arterial/portal vascular resistances and metabolic profiles did not differ between the 2 groups. Morphologically, transplantable livers remained well preserved after 24 hours of HMP. In conclusion, HMP preserves the morphology of human livers for prolonged periods. A biochemical analysis of the perfusate provides information reflecting the extent of the injury endured. Liver Transpl, 2012. © 2012 AASLD.