Preparing for a Liver Transplant

There are three phases every patient goes through while preparing for a liver transplant. These include the evaluation, the waiting period and the transplant event. Your team will help guide you and your caregivers through each step of the process, answer any questions and provide support.

Evaluation

Before our doctors can decide if a liver transplant is the best treatment option, you will need to complete an evaluation. An evaluation is scheduled testing to see how advanced your liver disease is as well as to ensure that the rest of your body is healthy enough to manage a liver transplant.

Transplantation is a life-changing event. Along with testing, you will have interviews will all the members of the transplant team, including coordinators, transplant assistants, a social worker, a pharmacist, physical and occupational therapists, a dietitian, hepatologists, transplant surgeons, nephrologists, specialty radiologist and infectious disease doctors.

Transplantation requires that patients have access to many resources, including support from family, friends and caregivers. Liver transplant patients need to have a primary caregiver with them not only at their appointments during the evaluation phase, but throughout the transplant process as well.

Waiting period

Once you are determined to be a good candidate for a liver transplant, you will be placed on the liver transplant waiting list. Your MELD score or Model for End-Stage Liver Disease will determine how long you will wait for a new liver.

Your MELD score takes into account factors such as how sick you are and your chances of mortality during a three-month period. The higher the MELD score, the faster you may receive a liver transplant. MELD scores range from 6 (less ill) to 40 (gravely ill). Patients with a MELD score over 35 may be transplanted sooner than a patient with a MELD score below 35.

While you are waiting, you will be seen in our clinics every three months or more frequently if indicated by your clinical status. We have a liver transplant support group that you and your family may attend to help you manage the stress of waiting.

Transplant event

When a suitable donor becomes available, a donor transplant coordinator will call you. You will be expected to be at UF Health Shands Hospital as quickly and safely as you can get here for surgery.

You will be prepared for surgery in a nursing unit and then proceed to the operating room. A designated waiting room is available for your family. The transplant will take four to six hours, after which you will be admitted to the surgical intensive care unit (SICU) for several days. You will then be transferred to our transplant unit once you are stable. Typically, you will be in the hospital for two to three weeks.

As always, the transplant team will be there to assist you and your family at all times, including life after a liver transplant.

Learn more

To learn more about liver transplant and our team, contact us at 352.265.0754.