When you're on a transplant waiting list, you may be called at any time to receive a liver that has become available. Time is critical because livers must be transplanted within 12-18 hours of being recovered from a donor. So patients are usually asked to stay within six hours of the hospital while they are on the waiting list.
Once the patient arrives at the hospital for surgery, they will have tests and will be prepared for surgery, which includes blood testing and a visit by the anesthesia team.
The surgery itself is extremely complex and may last from five to 10 hours. During the procedure, the surgeon makes a curved incision in the upper part of the patient’s abdomen. The patient’s failed liver is removed and the donor liver is implanted. The surgeon sutures the new liver to the patient’s blood vessels and bile ducts.
After surgery, the patient is usually taken to an intensive care unit or observation unit for at least 24 hours to monitor for complications or bleeding. Then the patient is moved to a room on the transplant floor.
The average hospital stay after an uncomplicated liver transplant is about seven days.
Split liver transplants
About 10 to 20 percent of all liver transplants performed at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children's Hospital each year use split-liver transplants.
In split liver transplants, a single liver from a deceased donor is split into two portions with each portion being transplanted into separate recipients – most commonly, an adult and a child. Because healthy liver tissue is able to regenerate, each section of donor liver grows into a full-sized, fully functioning organ within a few months.
For more information on the liver transplant program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call