Becoming a patient at Georgetown University’s Hospital Liver Transplant Program requires several important steps. These include:
- Referral by another physician, self, or other medical professional
- Pre-transplant evaluation, including interviews
- Cleared for transplant
How long is the wait for a liver transplant?
In the Washington, D.C. area, the waiting time for a donor liver is on average is six months long. The actual waiting time depends on the number of people on the transplant list and most importantly, the patient’s overall health. . A patient who is very ill will automatically move higher on the list, so they can to receive their transplant faster.
What are my other options?
When our multidisciplinary team evaluates you, medical or surgical therapies other than a transplant may be recommended. If your liver function can be improved, you may be able to avoid the need for a transplant. If you definitely need a transplant, different types of liver grafts are available.
Living donor liver transplantation is another option for patients who need a liver transplant. In this kind of transplant, a healthy person (family member, friend or co-worker) donates a portion of his or her liver to the transplant patient.
Doctors remove a portion of the donor’s liver, remove the recipient’s damaged liver and attach the healthy partial liver in its place, where it begins to regenerate to normal size. The donor’s liver quickly regenerates, too, and continues to function normally. Both procedures are performed at the same time in two adjacent operating rooms.
What are the advantages of living donor liver transplants?
This kind of surgery can be scheduled, and can be performed before the recipient becomes extremely ill. This leads to fewer complications, faster recovery and better long-term results. This is a very safe procedure for donors.
How will my ranking be determined?
Your ranking on the national liver donor list is determined using your MELD (Model for End-Stage Liver Disease) score. The MELD score was developed by UNOS (United Network of Organ Sharing) The MELD score is based on a formula that is very accurate for predicting who is sickest and needs an organ the soonest to survive. As your liver disease progresses, your MELD score will become higher, as will your ranking on the priority list.
What is the success rate of liver transplants?
Nationwide, liver transplants are effective about 85 percent of the time, whether a donor organ or living donor is used. Our survival rates are among the best in the United States. Liver transplants in children are successful more than 95 percent of the time at Georgetown.
Why do I need an evaluation? I know I need a liver transplant.
The evaluation process determines if you are medically eligible to receive a transplant and includes an assessment to make sure there are no psychological or social barriers to transplantation. The goal of the evaluation process is to make sure your health status is optimal and that you would able to be safely transplanted.
What is included in the pre-transplant evaluation for a liver transplant?
The process to be cleared for a liver transplant includes a two-part pre-transplant evaluation, also known as a “work-up”. It includes:
- Interviews with different members of the liver transplant team
- Diagnostic testing to determine your overall general health, as well as your end-stage liver disease
Interviews for a liver transplant
Interviews will be conducted with the following team members (see team members and roles defined on the Who We Are: Liver Transplant Program page):
- Transplant surgeon
- Transplant hepatologist
- Transplant anesthesiologist
- Clinical transplant coordinator
- Clinical transplant donor coordinator
- Transplant social worker
- Financial coordinator
Diagnostic testing for a liver transplant
Lab tests and work-up will include:
- Blood tests: to examine liver function
- Chest X-rays
- MRI or CT scans of your liver: to determine the extent of the liver disease
- EKG or ECG: to look at the function of your heart
- Echocardiogram and/or cardiac stress test: to see how well your heart is beating
- Dental exam: to look for any possible source of infection
- Pulmonary function test: to look at the health of your lungs
- Colonoscopy: this may be required if your are more than 50 years of age
- For Women: gynecological exams may be necessary
Additional testing may be required, depending on your individual needs.
Will I have written information, explaining the entire process?
Yes. Every patient receives a comprehensive packet of information, describing the entire process and giving important information for the liver transplantation process.