Steps towards a liver transplant
This outlines the entire liver transplant process
- Your liver doctor will discuss your options with you and arrange any transplant tests
- It may take a long time to match you to a suitable donor, and sometimes a donor cannot be found
- A transplant is a major operation and complications can arise during and after surgery
- After a transplant, you will need to take daily medicines for as long as the transplant continues to work
1. Discuss your options with a doctor
Your liver doctor will be able to advise on whether a liver transplant is the right treatment for you. They will discuss the benefits and risks with you, along with possible alternative treatments.
Having a liver transplant is a big decision and every patient's case is unique. You will need to take daily medicines for as long as the liver transplant continues to work and there is a chance the transplant will fail. But if it does function, a transplant is the most effective treatment for liver failure.
2. Tests to see if you’re suitable for a liver transplant
If your doctor thinks a liver transplant is a possible treatment, they will arrange for you to have a series of tests.
These are to find out whether your body can cope with the surgery and whether a transplant is the best option for you.
3. Waiting for a liver
This can be a lengthy process as it relies on matching you with a compatible donor.
To receive a liver from a deceased donor you will need to go on the national transplant list and wait to be matched with a suitable liver. If you are offered a liver, your transplant team will let you know any risks from the donated organ.
4. Being admitted to the transplant centre
If you and your transplant team decide to accept an offered liver, you will be asked to come to the transplant centre. You’ll have tests to check the surgery can go ahead. Your surgeon will explain how the operation will be performed and discuss the risks and benefits. The liver will be checked to make sure it is suitable for transplantation.
5. Having liver transplant surgery
A liver transplant is a major operation, which you will have under general anaesthetic. During the operation, your diseased liver is removed and replaced with the donated liver.
The operation time varies depending on complexity of the procedure and operating surgeon. It’s often between 5-8 hours.
6. After a liver transplant
You will need to stay in hospital for 1-2 weeks. Your transplant team will monitor your progress and let you know when you can go home.
You will need follow-up appointments at the hospital, and extra support can be arranged at home, if needed. You will also need to take daily medicines to prevent rejection.