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Liver Transplantation Fact Sheet 

View Liver Transplantation Fact Sheet   (PDF, 222 KB) 

Liver transplant at UK HealthCare

The faculty and staff of the Transplant Center specialize in the transplantation of all major solid organs, including the heart, lung, kidney, pancreas and liver.

What does my liver do?

  • As the body's largest internal organ, the liver is located below the diaphragm on the right side of the abdomen. The liver performs many complex functions in the body.
  • Produces proteins needed by the body
  • Metabolizes (breaks down) nutrients from food to produce energy
  • Stores vitamins, minerals and sugars
  • Produces bile needed to digest fat and absorb vitamins
  • Produces substances that regulate blood clotting
  • Helps fight infection

Signs of liver problems

Loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, and feeling tired are some symptoms of liver problems. Liver
problems will often make your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow, a condition known as jaundice. Swelling in the legs and the abdomen may also be signs of liver problems.

Liver transplant

Liver transplantation is considered when the liver no longer functions adequately (liver failure). The most common reason for liver transplantation is cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is caused by many different types of liver injuries that destroy healthy liver cells and replace them with scar tissue. Cirrhosis may be caused by hepatitis B and C, alcohol abuse, fat buildup in the liver, autoimmune liver diseases and hereditary liver diseases. Other reasons for transplantation include liver cancer and benign tumors.

Primary care doctors refer patients to a transplant hospital to determine if a liver transplant is
appropriate. An evaluation is conducted by the transplant team. This team, led by a liver transplant surgeon, includes a liver specialist (hepatologist), transplant coordinator, anesthesiologists, psychiatrist, social worker and financial counselor.

Once a patient is determined to be a liver transplant candidate, his or her name is placed on a waiting list according to blood type, body size and medical condition. Each patient is given a priority score based on three simple blood tests: creatinine, bilirubin and INR. This score is known as the MELD (model of end-stage liver disease) score in adults and PELD (pediatric end-stage liver disease) in children. Patients with the highest MELD or PELD scores receive transplants first. Patients are contacted when a match is found.

Complications

Rejection and infection are the most common complications in the weeks following liver transplantation. Antirejection medications are given to ward off the autoimmune attack. However, because antirejection drugs suppress your immune system, you are at an increased risk for infections. Not all patients experience infection problems, and most infections can be treated successfully as they occur.

Follow-up

Most patients are discharged from the hospital one week after the transplant. The first clinic appointment is usually scheduled within the first week after discharge, and patients are followed
very closely in the transplant clinic for about 3 months. In general, nine out of 10 patients do well and most go back to their normal lives, jobs and the activities they enjoyed before they became sick.

Resources

UK HealthCare Transplant Center
1-800-333-8874
ukhealthcare.uky.edu/transplant  

Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA)
106 East Broadway
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
502-581-9511
1-800-525-3456
www.kyorgandonor.org  

American Liver Foundation (ALF)
75 Maiden Lane, Suite 603
New York, New York 10038-4810
1-800-GO-LIVER (465-4837)
www.liverfoundation.org  

United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS)
PO Box 2484
Richmond, VA 23218
1-888-894-6361
www.unos.org  

Page last updated: 10/17/2013 12:44:10 PM