The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has announced that an “exciting development” could increase the number of livers which can be safely used for transplantation.

A perfusion machine, which can keep a donated liver viable for transplantation for longer, reduces the rate of tissue deterioration that occurs after the liver has been removed from the donor and extends how long the liver can be stored before transplantation.

NICE has issued final guidance which recommends the perfusion machine, potentially increasing the number of organs viable for transplant, saving more lives and reducing liver transplant waiting lists. The procedure will be used under special arrangements as more data is gathered into its efficacy, although no safety concerns have been identified.

Liver transplantation is a highly successful treatment for end-stage liver disease, which kills 11,000 people a year in England. Deaths from liver disease have soared by 25% in a decade and continue to rise, while the average age of death from liver disease, which is currently at 50-59 years, continues to decrease.

Professor Kevin Harris, programme director and clinical advisor for the Interventional Procedures Programme at NICE, said: “This procedure offers hope for patients needing a liver transplant. It offers another way of preserving the liver, and assessing whether livers which might have previously been considered unsuitable, can be used safely.

“The latest evidence reviewed by a NICE committee concluded that the procedure worked well and was safe to be offered to patients who had been fully informed of the risks and benefits. Clinicians should seek approval from their trust’s management and record all data from the procedure in a database.