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MARS Therapy (Liver Dialysis)

What is MARS Therapy (Liver Dialysis)?

MARS therapy stands for Molecular Adsorbent Recirculating System but is often referred to as liver dialysis. Liver dialysis is done when a child has severe liver disease or poisoning that results in abnormal brain function or other problems.

First, a soft plastic tube, called a catheter, is placed in one of your child’s large veins. Then, two machines are attached and connected to your child’s catheter. The machines pull blood through the catheter, clean it and return the blood back to your child.

MARS therapy may help restore some brain function by removing waste products or removing poisons that have built up in your child’s body.

What to Expect

The MARS therapy equipment.

This treatment is not painful. Your child will usually remain in intensive care while having MARS therapy.

A specially trained nurse performs this treatment and will stay with your child the entire time.

The treatment may last up to eight hours and may need to be repeated.

How quickly your child gets better may vary. Your child’s doctor will decide when treatments can stop based on your child’s improvement.

During this treatment, your child may experience:

  • Infection in the catheter
  • Bleeding
  • High or low heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Trouble with the catheter (for example, it may not be working well, causing a delay in treatment)

Special Instructions

  • Help prevent infection by always washing your hands before entering your child’s room and before you leave. Check to make sure everyone does the same − don’t be afraid to remind anyone who comes into your child’s room to wash their hands.
  • Your child will need to rest quietly during this treatment. You may want to have books, videos and quiet activities available for your child. A child life specialist can also help with quiet activities for your child.

Last Updated 05/2024

Reviewed By Elizabeth Rompies, MSN, APRN, CNP

Conditions and treatments.

Learn more about the comprehensive therapy options available in the Center for Acute Care Nephrology.