Therapeutic plasma exchange does not reduce vasopressor requirement in severe acute liver failure: A retrospective case series

Ubbo F. Wiersema, Susan W. Kim, David Roxby, Andrew Holt

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Background: In acute liver failure (ALF) therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) improves laboratory measures of liver function. In patients with ALF requiring minimal vasoactive support TPE has also been shown to provide haemodynamic benefits including an increase in systemic blood pressure. However the haemodynamic effects of TPE in patients with severe ALF requiring moderate or high dose vasopressor therapy has not been reported. We retrospectively examined the haemodynamic effects of TPE in a cohort of patients with severe ALF requiring vasopressor therapy. Methods: Physiological, laboratory and treatment data were collected on all patients with ALF who received TPE between January 2000 and December 2012. All patients were managed in the intensive care unit of a tertiary referral centre for ALF and liver transplantation. The primary outcome measures were changes in mean arterial pressure (MAP), vasopressor score and the ratio of vasopressor score to MAP (vasopressor dependency index (VDI)) from baseline prior to TPE through to 12 hours after completion of TPE. Secondary outcome measures were changes in other routinely collected physiological variables and laboratory results. Results are presented as median (interquartile range (IQR)). Outcome measures were evaluated using a mixed effect model. Results: Thirty nine TPE were performed in 17 patients with ALF (13 paracetamol poisoning). All TPE were performed with a centrifugal apheresis system (duration 130 minutes (IQR 115 - 147.5), plasma volume removed 5.1% body weight (IQR 4.6 - 5.5). Baseline values for primary outcome measures were: MAP 82 mmHg (IQR 72 - 92.5), vasopressor score 8.35 (IQR 3.62 - 24.6) and VDI 0.10 (IQR 0.05 - 0.31). MAP was significantly higher immediately after TPE compared to baseline (p = 0.039), however when corrected for change in vasopressor requirement there was no significant change in VDI with TPE (p = 0.953). Twelve hours after TPE the MAP, vasopressor score and VDI were not significantly different from baseline (p = 0.563, p = 0.317 and p = 0.214 respectively). Conclusion: In this cohort of patients with severe ALF centrifugal TPE did not significantly affect vasopressor requirements.

Original languageEnglish
Article number30
JournalBMC Anesthesiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 8 Mar 2015


  • Acute liver failure
  • Haemodynamic
  • Plasmapheresis
  • Shock
  • Therapeutic plasma exchange
  • Vasopressor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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