Therapeutic apheresis is an important hematological and nephrological method for conditions with altered plasma composition. It is also indicated for the removal of protein-bound molecules, such as bilirubin. Several techniques can remove these compounds, such as the extracorporeal circulation molecular adsorption system (MARS), plasma exchange (PEX), and plasma adsorption and perfusion (PAP). Here we report our experience in the comparison between MARS, PEX and PAP, since current guidelines do not specify which method is the most appropriate and under which circumstances it should be used.
The choice of technique cannot be based on the desired plasma bilirubin concentration, since these three techniques show similar results with a similar final outcome (exitus). In fact, PAP, PEX and MARS significantly reduce bilirubin levels, but the degree of reduction is not different among the three. Furthermore, the three techniques do not differ in the rate of cholinesterase change, while less reduction of liver transaminases was found by using PAP.
MARS should be preferred in the case of renal involvement (hepatorenal syndrome with hyperbilirubinemia). PAP has the advantage of being simple and inexpensive. PEX remains an option when emergency PAP is not available, but the risk of using blood products (plasma and albumin) must be considered.
Keywords: Molecular Adsorbent Recirculating System, MARS, Plasma Adsorption Perfusion, plasma exchange