Liver Transplant - Liver Foundation
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Liver Transplant

What is a liver transplant?



Click here to watch a film on Informed Consent for Liver Transplant Candidates. 


A liver transplant is a surgical procedure used to remove a diseased liver and replace it with a healthy one. When the liver is damaged to such an extent that it cannot perform the functions required to let its owner lead a healthy life, a liver transplant may become necessary.

Unlike a dialysis machine which can replicate the functions of a kidney, there is no mechanical device to replace the functions of a liver. A transplant is sometimes the only treatment for people with acute or chronic liver disease.

What is liver failure?

Liver failure is the inability of the liver to perform its normal metabolic functions. The liver is a very resilient organ and it can keep going even with much abuse for a good length of time. The liver is also the chemical warehouse of the body and when it is inflammed, it is unable to carry out its functions very well. Signs and symptoms of liver disease then begin to develop.If the problem is very severe, a liver transplantation may be the only answer.

What are the main causes of liver failure?

The causes of liver failure can be many, however the following are the most common:

Acute Liver Failure – When the liver is extensively damaged over a short period of time. e.g. -drug overdose can bring on this kind of liver failure.

Chronic Liver Failure – When the liver is subjected to damage by infection or abuse over several years. e.g. alcohol liver disease or hepatitis B or C (hyperlink)

Metabolic Liver Disease – When there are underlying problems with the body’s metabolism. e.g. haemachromatosis, wilson’s disease

Liver Cancer – Cancer in the liver can eventually lead to liver failure

Biliary Atresia – This is the most common cause of liver failure in children where the ducts that carry bile out of the liver are damaged or missing.

What are the most common reasons for needing a liver transplant?

  • Cirrhosis from Hepatitis C or Alcohol Liver Disease
    • Primary Sclerosing Cholangistis
    • Auto Immune Hepatitis
    • Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
    • Wilson’s Disease
    • Fulminant Liver failure
    • Other cholestatic liver diseases
    There can be other causes and your medical team  will decide what events can lead to the need for a liver transplant.

Is there any special criteria for a person to be on the transplant list?

To be considered for transplantation, a person must have
• Severe or progressive disease that does not respond to treatment
• Be physically and emotionally capable of undergoing surgery and follow up medical treatment
• Irreversible, acute and chronic liver disease

What are the general signs and symptoms of liver disease?

The signs and symptoms of liver disease are quite generalised and your doctor will diagnose this with the help of some diagnostic tests. These symptoms may include :

  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)
    • Itch
    • Dark urine or pale stools
    • Vomiting blood
    • Black or bloody stools
    • Swelling of the abdomen due to accumulation of fluid (ascites)
    • Muscle wasting and tendency to bleed
    • Loss of energy, sleep disturbance or drowsiness
    • Confusion