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Liver Transplant Process

The Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center team combines 30 years of experience performing liver transplants with the latest treatments to offer the most advanced, effective care possible for patients.

Liver Transplant: Our Approach to Care

Our expert team includes surgeons, hepatologists (liver specialists), gastroenterologists (digestive disease specialists) and other transplant professionals. We care for patients every step of the way: from the initial evaluation to transplant to recovery and life after transplant.

Features of our care include:

  • Efficient waitlist: The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) manages the waiting list. UNOS ranks patients based on their MELD score (a measure of the severity of your illness).
  • Convenient services: Your time is valuable. We tailor our evaluation to your needs, so we don’t waste your time with unnecessary testing. For local patients, we can evaluate you on an outpatient basis at our Barnes-Jewish Hospital campus. If you have advanced liver cancer or live out of town, we will expedite the process for you. Read more about what to expect.
  • Advanced cancer treatments: We have developed effective methods to shrink tumors before transplant for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) or cholangiocarcinoma. Shrinking the tumor may allow tumors that are transplant-ineligible to become eligible for transplantation. Liver transplant after tumor reduction is not available nationwide. We offer transplant opportunities for patients that may have been declined by other transplant centers due to the complexity of their treatment needs. We have shown excellent cancer-free outcomes in people who received tumor reduction treatments and those that did not require tumor shrinking prior to transplant.
  • Comprehensive care: We provide various liver cancer treatment options that result in more effective transplant procedures, so you can live a full, productive life after your surgery. We are among only a handful of programs nationwide with the skills and resources to offer transplant for certain patients with Cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer).

Learn more about our transplant options for liver cancer.

The Liver Transplant Process

We tailor the specifics of the liver transplant process for your needs. Your care team will discuss the process in depth with you, answering any questions you or your caregiver may have.

In general, this is what you can expect during the process:

  • Referral: When you are referred for a liver transplant evaluation, we will assign you a transplant nurse coordinator. The coordinator will be your guide during the process, facilitating communication between you and the transplant team, collecting the appropriate medical records and scheduling a transplant evaluation. This way, you can focus on your health and not on logistics.
  • Evaluation: Our team will provide a thorough medical and psychosocial evaluation so that we understand your physical condition and your specific circumstances that might affect your prospects as a liver transplant candidate. Meet the liver transplant team.
  • Waitlist: If we determine that liver transplantation is the best option, we will add you to the waitlist maintained by UNOS. The waiting time for a suitable donor varies for each individual and is based on your MELD score, blood type and geographic location. The transplant team will describe what to expect throughout the process. Learn more about what to expect.
  • Surgery: Once a suitable donor is identified, we will call you to the hospital for the surgery. Find out more about liver transplant surgery.
  • Recovery: Most people stay in the hospital about 7-10 days following a liver transplant. After the surgery, a team of specialists will prepare you for long-term post-transplant care. This team may include the surgeon, hepatologist, transplant coordinator, nurse specialist, physical therapist, dietitian and social worker.
  • Follow-up: After being discharged from the hospital, we will see you frequently at first to watch for signs of the liver being rejected by the body or any other complications related to transplant. Over time, you will transition to your primary care physician for more routine care. For continuity of care and to ensure the best outcomes, however, we follow our patients for the life of their transplant.

Contact Us

For more information about the liver transplant program at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, call 888.993.8511.