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Summary

Albumin was introduced initially in the treatment of patients with cirrhosis and ascites to increase serum albumin concentration due to its oncotic effect. Although its administration declined some years later, at present it constitutes an essential treatment in clinical hepatology. Several studies have clearly demonstrated its efficacy in the prevention and treatment of circulatory dysfunction and hepatorenal syndrome in patients with cirrhosis. These effects can be due not only to its properties as a plasma expander but also to its capacity to bind numerous substances such as bile acids, nitric oxide and cytokines. Based on this capacity an albumin dialysis system (MARS) has recently been developed. The usefulness of this system in the management of patients with acute and chronic liver failure is, at present, under evaluation.