Abstract Extracorporeal liver assist devices have been used for more than five decades to support patients with liver failure. Numerous modifications have been made to both biological as well as mechanical liver assist devices. Possibly, an ideal liver assist device would be one that would perform optimal detoxification and synthetic functions of the liver, be simple to set up and yet be cost-effective. An albumin dialysis-based device that uses a hybrid albumin-impregnated membrane to get rid of albumin-bound toxins that circulate in abundance in liver failure, called the molecular adsorbent recirculating system (MARS) has been in clinical use for nearly four years now. Results with the use of this device in both acute and acute-on-chronic liver failure have shown consistent improvement in biochemical profile, resolution of encephalopathy, correction in hemodynamics, reduction in intracranial pressure and some improvement in the synthetic function of the liver. In a number of studies, albeit of small sample size, survival advantage has also been observed. The timing of initiation of therapy with MARS, duration of treatment, frequency of sessions and ‘maintenance therapy’ are still some of the unresolved issues with the use of this device. Large multicentric trials on the use of this technique are expected to throw light on these issues and help optimize the potential of this liver assist device.
© 2002 Blackwell Publishing Asia Pty Ltd