Liver transplant

There is a strict assessment process that is used to decide who can have a liver transplant, as donated livers are scarce both in the UK and around the world.

If your doctor thinks you might need a liver transplant, you'll need to have an assessment before you can be put on the waiting list.

This strict assessment is needed to check that a liver transplant is suitable for you and to determine how urgently you need one.

Where it's done

The assessment will be carried out at a liver transplant unit.

There are 7 hospitals in the UK with adult liver transplant units:

  • London – Royal Free Hospital and King's College Hospital
  • Birmingham – Queen Elizabeth Hospital (adults)
  • Leeds – St James's University Hospital
  • Newcastle – Freeman Hospital
  • Cambridge – Addenbrooke's Hospital
  • Edinburgh Royal Infirmary

There are also 3 children's liver transplant units:

  • London King's College Hospital Paediatric Liver Centre
  • Birmingham Children's Hospital
  • Leeds General Infirmary Children's Liver Unit

How long it takes

The assessment process normally takes about 5 days.

You may need to stay in hospital during this time, or you may be able to go home at the end of each day.

What happens

The assessment involves talking to liver transplant specialists and having tests to check your liver and general health.

You may be asked about:

  • your symptoms and how they affect your daily life
  • your medical history – including any other physical or mental health conditions you have
  • if you have a history of drinking or drug problems

It's important to answer these questions as best you can.

Tests you might have include:

At the end of the assessment, the liver transplant team will decide if a transplant is suitable.

If you are suitable for a transplant

If the transplant team decide you are suitable for a liver transplant, they'll ask if you want to be placed on the waiting list.

This is a list of everyone in the UK who needs a liver transplant.

It's up to you to decide if you want to go on the list. If you don't need a transplant urgently, you can take time to think it over before making a decision.

Sometimes you may be suitable to have a transplant but too well to go straight on the waiting list at the time you were assessed. If this happens, you'll be monitored to check if your situation changes.

If you're not suitable for a transplant

Sometimes the transplant team may decide a liver transplant isn't suitable – for example, they may think that it has a low chance of being successful.

If this happens, you may be asked:

  • to have regular check-ups to monitor your condition – the assessment can be repeated if your condition changes
  • if you want a second opinion – another transplant team can do an assessment to see if they agree with the original decision

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