OBJECTIVE: Liver fatty acid-binding protein (L-FABP) is a small protein (15 kD) involved in the intracellular transport of long-chain fatty acids in the liver. The L-FABP is regarded as a sensitive marker for liver cell damage. In a pig model for liver transplantation (LTx) from non-heart-beating donors (NHBD), we evaluated plasma changes of L-FABP early after reperfusion of grafts exposed to increasing periods of warm ischemia (WI). METHODS: Porcine livers were procured after 0, 15, 30, 45, and 60 minutes' WI. After 4 hours' cold ischemia (CI), LTx was performed. Primary graft nonfunction (PNF) and day 4 survival were recorded. Plasma samples were collected prior to and 15, 60, and 180 minutes after graft reperfusion for determination of L-FABP and aspartate transaminase (AST). RESULTS: Early after reperfusion, levels of L-FABP correlated well with the duration of WI. The PNF developed in 100% of animals after 60 minutes of WI, 50% after 30, and 45 minutes' WI, and was absent after no WI and 15 minutes of WI. Day 4 survival was 100% in 0 minutes' WI, 83% in 15 minutes' WI, 50% in 30 and 45 minutes' WI, and 0% in 60 minutes of WI. CONCLUSIONS: Plasma levels of L-FABP correlated well with WI and concomitant hepatocellular damage in LTx from NHBD. Monitoring of posttransplant L-FABP plasma levels is a valuable new tool to quantify early the extent of parenchymal cell damage of NHBD livers and to predict their viability and function.