Steps towards a liver transplant

This outlines the entire liver transplant process

Key points

  • 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.

Learn about the risks and benefits of a liver transplant

2. Referral to a transplant unit

Doctor and patient sitting and talkingClinical teams usually work closely with one preferred transplant unit, often the nearest one.

If you want to be referred to a specific transplant unit, then the advantages and disadvantages of this should be discussed with your liver doctor. Sometimes there can be differences in waiting times between transplant units.

Find information on waiting times for transplantation

Learn more about liver transplant centres in the UK

3. 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.

Find out what tests are needed

4. 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.

Find answers to your donation questions


5. 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.

Learn more about going in for a liver transplant

6. 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.

Learn more about liver transplant surgery


7. 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.

Learn about living with a liver transplant


More information

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