Transplanting the liver

The goal of a liver transplant is to provide you with a new functioning liver that performs the functions that your original liver is no longer able to do. Liver transplantation is a surgical procedure that replaces your diseased liver with a healthy liver from another person. This new liver does all the work that your diseased liver used to do.

A successful liver transplant can return you to a state of good health. The liver you receive may be a living gift or you may receive a liver from someone who has died and donated their liver (deceased donor).

Generally, survival rates for liver transplant patients at the Hume-Lee Transplant Center are at or above the national average.

How it works

Liver transplantation is a difficult surgical procedure to perform. The surgeon makes an incision into the abdomen and removes your diseased liver. The next step is to place the new liver into your body. The surgeon connects the arteries and veins of the new liver to your own arteries and veins.

If the recipient has a normal bile duct, the new liver bile duct is connected to the recipient’s bile duct. A stent, similar to a straw, is placed to prevent any blockages. If the recipient does not have a normal bile duct, a condition called primary sclerosing cholangitis, the new liver bile duct is connected to the recipient’s small intestine.

The surgery takes six to eight hours for a deceased donor liver transplant and 10 to 12 hours for a living donor liver transplant. The hospital stay for either deceased-donor or living-donor liver transplant recipient is 10 to 14 days.

Source of the new liver

You may receive a liver from:

  • A family member (living related donor)
  • A spouse or friend (living unrelated donor)
  • A person who is unknown or unrelated to you (good Samaritan)
  • A person who has recently died (deceased donor)

A deceased-donor liver transplant occurs when someone is waiting on the transplant list. The United Network for Organ Sharing is the national organization that manages the allocation and distribution of organs. The waiting list has more than 119,000 people in need of all organ transplants and more than 15,000 waiting for a liver transplant in the U.S.*

Unfortunately, there are more people waiting for transplants than there are organs available to be transplanted. At the Hume-Lee Transplant Center, patients may wait up to three years for a liver transplant. These waiting times vary from patient to patient due to individual medical conditions. This is often why more and more people are choosing to have a living donor liver transplant.

* Data taken from OPTN/SRTR 2011 Annual Data Report