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Liver Transplant Surgery

The Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center surgical team has successfully performed more than 1,700 liver transplant surgeries. Our extensive experience makes it possible for our team to offer liver transplants to patients with the most complex liver disease.

Liver Transplant Surgery at Barnes-Jewish Hospital: Our Approach

The liver transplant process begins with an evaluation and placement on the transplant waitlist. Then you will wait until an appropriate liver becomes available for you. This waiting time varies from patient to patient. Your transplant team will tell you what to expect during this time.

Once you are placed on the transplant wait list, your team will manage your liver disease and transplant readiness. We will have frequent contact with you while you are waiting. We may need to repeat some evaluation testing to update your transplant eligibility and to screen for liver cancer.

We may call you at any time to receive a liver that has become available. When an organ becomes available, timing is very important. When we call you, you should be able to reach the Transplant Center within 6 hours.

Learn more about the liver transplant process.

Liver Transplant Surgery: What to Expect

Once you arrive at the hospital for surgery, our team will conduct several tests and prepare you for surgery. These tests ensure the safety and success of the transplant surgery.

The surgery itself is complex and may last from five to 10 hours. During the surgery, we will:

  1. Make a curved incision in the upper part of your abdomen
  2. Remove the failed liver and implant the donor’s liver
  3. Suture (stitch) the new liver to your blood vessels and bile ducts
  4. After the surgery, transfer you to the intensive care unit or observation unit for at least 24 hours to monitor for complications or bleeding
  5. Transfer you to a room on the transplant floor

The average hospital stay after an uncomplicated liver transplant is about 7 days. It is important that patients remain in the area for several weeks after discharge for follow-up care.

Read more about what to expect during liver transplant.

Split-Liver Transplants

Our expert surgeons are able to perform split-liver transplants, a procedure that helps make more organs available to patients who need a liver transplant. We use the split-liver approach in about 10-20 percent of all liver transplants at the Transplant Center. With this procedure:

  • A single liver from a deceased donor is split into two portions.
  • Each portion is transplanted into separate recipients – most commonly, an adult and a child.
  • The liver transplantation procedure for the recipient is the same with a partial liver as with a full liver.
  • Because healthy liver tissue is able to regenerate, each section of the donor liver grows into a full-sized, fully functioning organ within a few months.

Contact Us

For more information about the liver transplant program at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, call 888.202.6908.