Machine perfusion of donor livers is currently regarded as the most important innovation in transplant surgery to address the continuing shortage of organs in liver transplantation. Hypothermic machine perfusion (HMP) is safe to use and appears to reduce the risk of biliary complications and improve the long-term survival of transplanted organs following preservation by cold static storage – even in donors after cardiac death. A potential functional test of donor organs during HMP uses flavin mononucleotide and is still under clinical investigation. Normothermic machine perfusion (NMP) has a greater risk of technical problems, but functional testing using conventional laboratory parameters during NMP allows significant expansion of the donor pool, even though no prospective randomised study has been able to demonstrate a survival advantage for transplanted organs after NMP. In addition, the preservation time of the donor organs can be significantly extended with the help of NMP, which is particularly advantageous for complex recipient operations and/or logistics. Both methods could be applied for various scenarios in transplantation medicine – theoretically also in combination. The majority of German transplant centres regard machine perfusion as an important innovation and already actively perform perfusions or are in preparation for doing so. However, the overall practical experience in Germany is still relatively low, with only 2 centres having performed more than 20 perfusions. In the coming years, multi-centre efforts to conduct clinical trials and to develop national guidelines on machine perfusion will therefore be indispensable in order to define the potential of these technological developments objectively and to exploit it optimally for the field of transplantation medicine.
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