Italian researchers have determined that an antioxidant, known as NAC, can boost the survival of liver-transplant recipients when it is in injected as part of the procedure.
The finding — reported in the journal Liver Transplantation, published by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases — is based on a new study of 140 patients that found NAC (N-acetylcysteine) significantly improves donated liver recipients' survival odds to more than 90 percent.
"Liver transplantation is the standard treatment for end-stage liver disease," said lead researcher Francesco D'Amico, M.D., from Padova University in Italy. "Antioxidants such as NAC could potentially reduce damage to deceased donor livers, improving graft function."
Past research has shown that transplant patients often suffer damage to the liver tissue when the blood supply returns after an operation.
For the new study, D’Amico and colleagues tracked 140 liver transplant patients — half of whom received an NAC injection before and during their operations; the other half had a standard transplant without NAC.
The results showed graft survival rates as much as a year later were at least 90 percent for patients who received NAC, compared to 70-82 percent for the others. Post-transplant complication rates were also twice as common among among those who did not receive NAC — affecting 50 percent of the patients, compared to 23 percent for the NAC group.
"Our study was the first randomized trial to investigate the use of NAC antioxidant infusion during the liver procurement procedure,” noted Dr. D'Amico. “NAC has a good safety profile and the very low cost per patient make this protocol highly cost-effective in consideration of grafts survival, length of hospital stays, and post-operative complications."
The World Health Organization estimates about 22,000 liver transplants are performed worldwide each year. According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, nearly 16,000 U.S. patients are currently on the waiting list for a liver.
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