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Liver Transplant

You may have recently been told that you need or may need a liver transplant. Liver transplantation can provide a new chance for a longer, more active life for people who are battling liver disease.

Through our state-of-the-art programs at SSM Health’s Transplant Center at Saint Louis University Hospital, we offer our patients individualized care plans to treat their primary or secondary liver cancer, as well as assess eligibility for transplant. We are nationally recognized for our full-spectrum of liver disease and transplant services and our excellent outcomes.

Learning more about the procedure and the lifetime commitment involved can help you determine if transplantation is a good treatment option for you. Our experienced team at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital will work with you as a partner in your care and will guide you every step of the way – from referral to surgery to recovery and beyond.

Reasons for a Liver Transplant

The liver is the largest internal organ in the human body. It performs over 500 functions and produces over 1,000 enzymes and other proteins that are essential for good health. You cannot live without your liver. When your liver has failed and transplantation is necessary, a donated liver may be the best option. This could come from a living donor or a liver from an otherwise healthy person who has since passed away.

Could I Be a Candidate for a Liver Transplant?

Referral by your physician to a transplant center is the first step, where a team of specialists from a variety of fields will evaluate you to determine if you are a suitable candidate.

Evaluation will include assessment of your:

  • Liver disease and other conditions you may have
  • Mental and emotional health
  • Support system
  • Ability to adhere to the complex medical regimen required after transplant
  • Likelihood of surviving the transplant operation

Pre-transplant evaluation appointments often last four to five hours. The person who will help care for you before and after your transplant should accompany you to the appointment. If you are determined to be a candidate, you will be added to the waiting list according to your MELD score. The MELD score is determined by specific medical testing and laboratory criteria, and ultimately determines the urgency and order of your transplant need.

Your Transplant Surgery

Once an organ becomes available, you will be called into the hospital for transplant surgery. During the surgery, the diseased liver is removed and replaced with the donor liver. This is called an orthotopic transplant. Your new liver will be placed where the old one was. The surgery usually lasts approximately four hours.

When the surgery is over, you will awaken in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where a team of nurses and doctors will carefully monitor your progress. You may have drainage tubes in your nose and a catheter placed in your bladder for urine drainage. You will also have intravenous lines to give you hydrating fluids and oxygen to help you breathe. Over the next few days, these tubes and lines will be removed, and you can start eating food and getting out of bed to exercise. Eventually, you will be moved to a regular room for continued monitoring.

After Your Surgery

Depending on your progress, you can expect to go home in about one to three weeks. After you go home, you will be seen in our clinic within two to three weeks. You will have labs drawn twice weekly to check the status of your new liver. As you continue to progress, you will need to be seen much less frequently.

Needing an organ transplant can be a frightening and often frustrating process, but our compassionate and skilled team is here to be with you every step of the way.

To schedule an appointment, or to learn more information, call us today at (314) 577-8867. If you are interested in evaluation for an organ transplant, we encourage you to download and complete our Transplant Referral Packet and fax it to 314-268-5132 to expedite the process. Our dedicated SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital transplant team will review your packet as soon as possible.

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