Prof. Ziv Ben Ari holding the alfapump® System 4

Patients with advanced liver disease have a dramatically improved quality of life thanks to the new state-of-the-art alfapump® System technology now in use at Sheba.

Sheba Medical Center has recently introduced the innovative and unique alfapump® System for the treatment of patients with advanced liver disease. Consisting of a battery-operated pump implanted under the skin, this breakthrough technology automatically and continually removes fluid build-up in the abdominal cavity (ascites) to the bladder, where it is naturally excreted from the body. Patients receiving this treatment at Sheba have reported improved quality of life since they no longer need frequent invasive procedures.

alfapump® System technology now in use at Sheba.

During advanced liver disease, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) can cause high blood pressure in the veins that bring blood to the liver so that the liver can no longer perform its normal functions. This causes ascites, an abnormal build-up of protein-containing (ascitic) fluid within the abdomen. Ascites can be caused by many disorders but the most common cause is liver cirrhosis. A very large abdomen can be uncomfortable and cause patients to feel short of breath and lose their appetite. Doctors normally treat ascites by draining the accumulated fluid from the abdomen (8-10 liters at a time) every 7-10 days. This is an invasive procedure, which severely affects patients’ quality of life when they are already suffering from a serious illness and may even be candidates for liver transplantation.

The most advanced treatment solution today for ascites is the alfapump® System, an innovative pump that is implanted under the skin. This is carried out in a simple and short surgical procedure that can be performed under local or general anaesthesia. The alfapump® System collects ascites as it forms and moves it into the bladder, where it is passed naturally from the body through normal urination. A tube in the abdominal cavity drains the accumulated fluid and passes it to another tube in the bladder.

Prof. Ziv Ben-Ari holding the alfapump® System

Prof. Ziv Ben-Ari holding the alfapump® System

Once implanted, patient interaction with the alfapump® System is minimal. The pump operates continuously 24 hours a day and the physician can personally program the volume of fluid being pumped for each patient. The alfapump® can be charged wirelessly through the skin by holding a hand-held charging device over the alfapump®. The pump loads and transmits online drainage data, which is monitored by a control center and sent via email to the physician. The doctor can then program the rate of fluid transfer and the timing of its extraction from the abdominal cavity to the bladder. This is very convenient to patients, since there is no need for them to come to the hospital every week.

The new technology was introduced to Sheba by Prof. Ziv Ben Ari, Director of the Center for Liver Diseases and of the Liver Research Laboratory at the Sheba Medical Center. Dr. Yana Davidov of the Center for Liver Diseases, in cooperation with the Department of Surgery B specialists, Dr. Eilon Lahat and Prof. Mordechai Gutman (the department’s director), received specialized training for the alfapump® implantation procedure from a leading surgeon in Switzerland.

Patients at Sheba are delighted to have no needles, no external tubes and no repeated needle punctures once they have the alfapump® System.

Mayo Clinic officials arrived in Israel to conduct joint operations with heart, chest, and blood vessel specialists at the Sheba Medical Center