Normothermic Machine Perfusion of Donor Livers for Transplantation in the United States: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Ann Surg. 2023 Nov 1;278(5):e912-e921 doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000005934.

To compare conventional low-temperature storage of transplant donor livers [static cold storage (SCS)] with storage of the organs at physiological body temperature [normothermic machine perfusion (NMP)].


The high success rate of liver transplantation is constrained by the shortage of transplantable organs (eg, waiting list mortality >20% in many centers). NMP maintains the liver in a functioning state to improve preservation quality and enable testing of the organ before transplantation. This is of greatest potential value with organs from brain-dead donor organs (DBD) with risk factors (age and comorbidities), and those from donors declared dead by cardiovascular criteria (donation after circulatory death).


Three hundred eighty-three donor organs were randomized by 15 US liver transplant centers to undergo NMP (n = 192) or SCS (n = 191). Two hundred sixty-six donor livers proceeded to transplantation (NMP: n = 136; SCS: n = 130). The primary endpoint of the study was "early allograft dysfunction" (EAD), a marker of early posttransplant liver injury and function.


The difference in the incidence of EAD did not achieve significance, with 20.6% (NMP) versus 23.7% (SCS). Using exploratory, "as-treated" rather than "intent-to-treat," subgroup analyses, there was a greater effect size in donation after circulatory death donor livers (22.8% NMP vs 44.6% SCS) and in organs in the highest risk quartile by donor risk (19.2% NMP vs 33.3% SCS). The incidence of acute cardiovascular decompensation at organ reperfusion, "postreperfusion syndrome," as a secondary outcome was reduced in the NMP arm (5.9% vs 14.6%).


NMP did not lower EAD, perhaps related to the inclusion of lower-risk liver donors, as higher-risk donor livers seemed to benefit more. The technology is safe in standard organ recovery and seems to have the greatest benefit for marginal donors.

CET Conclusion
Reviewer: Mr Keno Mentor, Centre for Evidence in Transplantation, Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences University of Oxford
Conclusion: This unblinded randomised trial compared the outcomes of liver transplantation following either normothermic machine perfusion (NMP) or static cold storage (SCS). The study employed a ‘device-to-donor’ methodology where the Organox metra device is transported to the site of organ retrieval, which the authors highlight is logistically more challenging. 266 livers were included in the analysis. The primary endpoint was early allograft dysfunction (EAD), defined as abnormal liver parameters 7 days after transplantation. There was no significant difference in EAD between the 2 groups. Although the difference in EAD was numerically greater when using an as treated or sub-group analysis of higher risk groups (high DRI, DCD donor), this to failed to reach statistical significance. The authors reached conclusions similar to that of previous European trials – NMP is a safe modality and shows potential to improve outcomes in marginal organs.
Expert Review
Reviewer: Mr Simon Knight, Centre for Evidence in Transplantation, Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences University of Oxford
Clinical Impact Rating 3
Review: The use of machine preservation technologies in liver transplantation has been gaining pace over recent years, with centres using a mixture of normothermic machine perfusion (NMP), hypothermic oxygenated machine perfusion (HOPE) and normothermic regional perfusion (NRP). Machine preservation has the potential to resuscitate the liver, reverse retrieval-related injury, allow longer safe preservation times and enable viability assessment prior to implant. In particular, NMP allows functional assessment of the liver with well-defined parameters predicting early allograft function (1). The first multicentre randomised controlled trial (RCT) of normothermic machine perfusion in Europe was published in 2018, and demonstrated a significant (50%) reduction in the incidence of early allograft dysfunction (EAD) in machine perfused livers, despite longer preservation times (2). These results were replicated in a US study (using a different NMP device), which also demonstrated a significant reduction in the incidence of EAD with NMP (3). Whilst not specifically designed to demonstrate differences in organ utilisation, both studies also showed a reduction in organ discard rates, particularly for donation after cardiac death (DCD) livers. In a recent publication in the Annals of Surgery, Chapman and colleagues report the results of the large multicentre US experience of NMP (4). They used a protocol very similar to that followed in the European RCT. Livers were randomised to either conventional static cold storage (SCS) or NMP, with perfusion initiated at the donor hospital and the liver transported on the device to the implanting centre. In contrast to the European study, the trial did not meet its primary endpoint of demonstrating an overall reduction in EAD. Per-protocol analysis showed similar trends to the prior European and US studies, with greater reduction in EAD rates seen with NMP in DCD and high donor-risk index (DRI) subgroups. Interestingly, there was evidence of a learning curve, with a reduction in EAD rates in the NMP arm following enhanced training during the study. Unlike the previous two RCTs, there was no difference in transplant rate between the arms. One important point to note is that all three RCTs used NMP in a “device-to-donor” configuration, with initiation of NMP at the donor hospital and transport on the device. This has significant logistical challenges, particularly in countries like the US where travel distances are longer and travel by plane is more common. In reality, most centres using NMP routinely in the UK and Europe are using NMP in a “back-to-base” configuration, with transport of the liver under SCS and initiation of perfusion in the recipient centre. Whilst small studies suggest that this does not compromise outcomes for the majority of livers (5), there is no large-scale RCT evidence to support the back-to-base NMP perfusion strategy that many centres are employing. Overall, whilst this study demonstrates a smaller effect size than previous RCTs, it does confirm that the technology is safe and that the main benefit of this technology appears to be for more marginal (high DRI and DCD) livers. References 1. Watson CJE, Gaurav R, Fear C et al. Predicting Early Allograft Function After Normothermic Machine Perfusion. Transplantation 2022; 106: 2391. 2. Nasralla D, Coussios CC, Mergental H et al. A randomized trial of normothermic preservation in liver transplantation. Nature 2018; 557: 50. 3. Markmann JF, Abouljoud MS, Ghobrial RM et al. Impact of Portable Normothermic Blood-Based Machine Perfusion on Outcomes of Liver Transplant: The OCS Liver PROTECT Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Surgery 2022; 157: 189. 4. Chapman WC, Barbas AS, D’Alessandro AM et al. Normothermic Machine Perfusion of Donor Livers for Transplantation in the United States - A Randomized Controlled Trial. Annals of Surgery 2023; 5. Ceresa CDL, Nasralla D, Watson CJE et al. Transient Cold Storage Prior to Normothermic Liver Perfusion May Facilitate Adoption of a Novel Technology. Liver Transplantation: Official Publication of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the International Liver Transplantation Society 2019; 25: 1503.
Methodological quality
Jadad score 3
Allocation concealment YES
Study Details
Aims: The aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of normothermic machine preservation (NMP) versus static cold storage (SCS) in the prevention of preservation-related graft injury.
Interventions: Donor livers were randomised to undergo either NMP or SCS.
Participants: 383 donor livers were randomised out of which 266 donor livers were transplanted.
Outcomes: The primary endpoint was early allograft dysfunction (EAD). Secondary endpoints included graft survival, patient survival, incidence of postreperfusion syndrome, biochemical liver function, biliary complications, histological evidence of ischemia-reperfusion injury, feasibility and safety, health economics and organ utilization.
Follow Up: 12 months
Funding: Industry funding
Publication type: Randomised Controlled Trial
Trial registration: - NCT02478151
Organ: Liver
Language: English
Author email:
MeSH terms: Liver Transplantation