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10 May 2013 : Review article  

Human albumin: old, new, and emerging applications

Jacek Rozga, Tomasz Piątek, Piotr Małkowski

DOI: 10.12659/AOT.889188

Ann Transplant 2013; 18:205-217


Human serum albumin has been widely used in an array of clinical settings for nearly 7 decades. Although there is no evidence to support the use of albumin rather than crystalloid in acute volume resuscitation, many clinicians continue to use albumin because it has other important physiologic effects besides the oncotic function. In keeping with the improved understanding of albumin physiology and pathophysiology of many acute and chronic diseases, use of albumin for medical applications has increased in recent years. This, along with increased costs of manufacturing and lower production volume of medical-grade albumin, has lead to an ongoing shortage and rapid increase in albumin prices. This review is based on the analysis of major publications, related to albumin chemistry, physiology, and medical uses including guidelines developed by professional and governmental organizations. Results reflect current knowledge about the role of albumin in health and disease and relevance of albumin therapy in specific clinical settings. Albumin therapy is currently recommended in spontaneous bacterial peritonitis with ascites, refractory ascites not responsive to diuretics, large-volume paracentesis, post-paracentesis syndrome, and the treatment of hepatorenal syndrome as an adjunct to vasoconstrictors. New indications for albumin therapy are linked to the antioxidant activity of albumin and its effects on capillary integrity. In recent years, large-pore hemofiltration and albumin exchange have emerged as promising liver support therapies for liver failure and other toxic syndromes. They are designed to remove a broad range of blood-borne toxins and to restore normal functions of the circulating albumin by replacing defective forms of albumin and albumin molecules saturated with toxins with normal albumin. In view of the ongoing worldwide shortage and high cost of human albumin (native and recombinant), new usage criteria, protocols, and guidelines for appropriate utilization of albumin are needed.

Keywords: albumin, Hypoalbuminemia, albumin binding capacity, fluid resuscitation, albumin supplementation, blood detoxification, Liver failure

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Annals of Transplantation eISSN: 2329-0358
Annals of Transplantation eISSN: 2329-0358