Health + Behavior

Fingertip probe can help identify whether donors’ livers are healthy before transplant

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UCLA
Dr. Ali Zarrinpar

A noninvasive device placed a person’s fingertip can successfully measure liver function in potential organ donors, according to a UCLA study. The finding could change the way organs are assessed and save thousands of dollars per transplant.

UCLA researchers measured liver function in 53 potential organ donors using the fingertip probe. Eleven livers were not healthy enough to be transplanted; the other 42 were transplanted. The researchers later used conventional tests to compare the transplanted livers’ function with the results obtained using the device.

The device measures the rate at which a dye injected into the person’s bloodstream is cleared by the liver. In the study, it successfully predicted every time which livers would function properly in transplant patients, said Dr. Ali Zarrinpar, the study’s first author and an assistant professor of surgery in UCLA’s division of liver and pancreas transplantation.

“This device is best single predictor of organ survival in our patients,” Zarrinpar said. “Ultimately, it gives us a quantitative measure of how good a liver is without our having to visually inspect the organ.”

The study was published online by the Journal of Surgical Research and will appear later in the journal’s print edition.

Zarrinpar said there are accurate, reliable function tests for other donor organs, but to date, none for the liver. Every year, more than 1,500 people die waiting for a donated liver to become available.

Read the full news release.

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