Maryland emergency doctors find new life-saving use in old machine

Dr. Deborah Stein, chief of trauma at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, discusses the machine doctors have been using to keep people with severe liver damage alive until they can get a liver transplant or the vital organ can heal. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)
Slammed in the gut by a wrecking ball, the construction worker arrived at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in dire condition years ago.

Doctors removed his devastated liver but he died before being matched with a new one, frustrating staff that longed for something to temporarily maintain the organ’s function, like their machines for hearts, lungs and kidneys.

Now they think they’ve found one in a little used machine designed to detox people who overdose on Tylenol and other medications. Doctors at Shock Trauma used it to save a teenage gunshot victim and then a college football player and an amateur triathlete who suffered heatstrokes.

Twenty-seven patients facing death from liver failure were hooked to the machine from 2013 through 2016 and the majority lived — a tally Maryland doctors now hope spurs a new look at the old technology. Continue reading

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