Liver Transplant

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Definition & Facts

A liver transplant is surgery to remove your diseased or injured liver and replace it with a healthy liver from another person, called a donor. If your liver stops working properly, called liver failure, a liver transplant can save your life.

Team of surgeons in uniform perform operation on a patient

Transplant Process

Before a liver transplant, you’ll be referred to a transplant center, evaluated by a transplant team, and if approved, placed on the national waiting list for a deceased donor. If you have a living donor, the transplant center won’t place you on the national waiting list and will schedule your surgery.

Transplant Surgery

Doctors perform liver transplant surgery by removing your liver and replacing it with a donor’s liver. Liver transplant surgery can take up to 12 hours or longer. For a deceased donor transplant, surgery starts when the donor liver arrives at the hospital.

Living with a Liver Transplant

After a liver transplant, you will see your doctor often to make sure your new liver is working properly. You will have regular blood tests to check for signs of organ rejection and take medicines the rest of your life to prevent organ rejection.

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Last Reviewed March 2017

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Michael R. Lucey, M.D., University of Wisconsin–Madison