Waiting for a Liver Transplant

Once the evaluations have been done and a person has been selected as a candidate for a deceased donor liver transplant, he or she is put on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) wait list. UNOS is a nonprofit organization that maintains a centralized computer network. This network links all transplant centers and regional organ procurement organizations. Through this network, UNOS identifies available organs and coordinates with the national network and the patient waiting list.

At this time, there are about 16,500 Americans on the waiting list for a liver transplant. A person's ranking on the waiting list is based on his or her MELD score (or PELD score, in the case of children).

The amount of time that a person will need to wait for a liver transplant varies widely. It depends on:

  • The type of transplant needed. When the donated organ comes from someone who has died (a deceased donor transplant ), the wait time is generally two to three years. A living donor transplant, where the donor is giving a portion of his or her liver and is usually a friend or relative of the recipient, the wait time is usually shorter.
  • How severe the patient's liver disease is
  • The patient's blood type
  • The patient's height and weight

Planning Ahead for Liver Transplant Surgery

While you are waiting for a donor organ to become available, it is important to guard your health. Your life after a transplant will change. This is a good time to get involved with a support group of people who are waiting for a transplant or who have had a transplant.

It's also important to plan. Some tips that may be helpful during this time:

  • Be sure to stay in touch. When an appropriate organ becomes available, it is important that the Cedars-Sinai liver transplant team be able to reach you as quickly as possible. Keep the team updated with an accurate list of your phone numbers and beeper. If you travel, it is important that the team have an itinerary with dates and contact numbers for reaching you.
  • Keep seeing your doctors regularly. If there is a change in your health status, this may change your MELD score (or a child's PELD score), which may shift your ranking on the waiting list.
  • Stay as healthy as possible.
  • Get involved with a support group. Learning as much as possible about the transplant process and how life may change after a liver transplant can be very helpful. A support group involving both people waiting for a transplant and those who have already been through the experience can help prepare you for this life-changing event.
  • Make plans. When an organ becomes available, you will need to get to the Cedars-Sinai Admitting office as quickly as possible. Plan how you will get to the Medical Center at various times of day, how you will get there and who will come with you.
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