Liver dialysis is a process that removes toxins from the liver in order to sustain patients until a liver transplant can be done. Unlike kidney dialysis, which can keep patients alive for months or years, dialysis on the liver is considered a very temporary solution for chronic liver failure. The act of liver filtration can be effective at removing toxins from the liver for several weeks to a few months, however, taking some of the strain off the ailing organ.
Although dialysis treatments are still being developed and improved upon, they have been approved for use in patients with chronic hepatitis C, as well as other severe liver disease. Patients who have to undergo this procedure have generally exhausted all other options other than a liver transplant. The outlook for dialysis patients is fair if a donor is found quickly enough, but it is often difficult to find a donor liver.
Many patients find donors through family. In these cases, only a portion of the donor liver is taken so that both patient and donor can survive the surgery. This is called a live organ donation, and it is made possible because the liver can rejuvenate itself using only a portion of the whole organ. This means that the donated portion will eventually grow into a fully functioning liver, and the donor's remaining organ will do the same. By using live organ donations, many more patients are able to receive new livers in comparison to those who need organs not available through live donors.
There are some long-term side effects of liver dialysis that patients should be aware of before treatment. Infection is one major side effect that can occur with any type of dialysis. Patients should be closely monitored to ensure that any infections that do occur are kept under control.
Other side effects may include weight gain, low blood pressure, iron deficiency, hernia, low blood pressure, and nerve damage. Patients may also experience symptoms like severe depression and anxiety, often as a result of the stress from dealing with a severe illness. Medications may be used to treat these side effects if they become a serious danger to the patient's health. Therapy may also be provided for those with psychological side effects.
While undergoing treatment, patients may be asked to refrain from participating in activities that are harmful to the liver, such as drinking and taking certain medications. In most cases, a liver transplant will not be offered to those who partake in these activities. Dialysis cannot be used as as substitute for a liver transplant.