Liver failure, whether acute or acute-on-chronic, remains an important cause of morbidity and mortality. The lack of liver detoxification, metabolic and regulatory functions of the liver leads to life-threatening complications, such as renal failure, altered immune response, hepatic coma and systemic haemodynamic dysfunction, eventually culminating in multiorgan failure. Current medical therapy involves the management of the precipitating event and treatment of complications until the liver eventually recovers, leaving us with no other treatment options than transplantation if these attempts fail. However, the shortage in cadaveric organs and other transplant-related problems, have prompted the need for alternative methods to provide liver support. As liver failure is often potentially reversible, considerable effort has been invested in the development of liver support systems. Currently, most of the experience is available for non-biological support systems. They represent the focus of this review, which aims to define the goals of liver support, to describe the design of the different existing devices and to analyse the available data to determine their current status in the management of patients with liver failure.