Liver Transplant

Liver transplantation involves the replacement of the whole of a patient’s liver with that from a donor. Most donations occur from people who have an acute terminal illness and who had expressed an intention to donate their organs after death, a process called cadaveric donation. A healthy person may also donate a part of their liver to a relative in a process called Live Related Liver Donation (LRLD).

A majority of liver transplantation in the UK is carried out within the NHS from cadaveric donors. Patients from overseas, who are ineligible for NHS care, will usually require a living related donor to be able to undergo liver transplantation in the UK.

Patients will normally spend 2-4 weeks in hospital to recover after transplant surgery, and a full recovery can take up to six months. They will have to take a number of new medications to help look after their new liver. In particular, they will need to be on life-long immunosuppression medication to prevent rejection.

A patient’s general health and physical condition needs to be sufficiently robust to successfully undergo transplant surgery, so it is important to consider the potential need for transplantation earlier rather than later in patients with advanced liver disease, whilst they are still relatively well.

Why might I need a liver transplant?

The most common reason for needing a liver transplant is when a patient’s own liver has extensive and irreversible damage and is starting to fail. This is called end-stage liver disease or decompensated cirrhosis. A liver specialist can use liver disease severity scoring systems to predict when a patient may need a transplant, though good clinical judgement and experience are also vital. Liver transplantation is also sometimes performed as an operation to treat some forms of primary liver cancer, called hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

This operation is carried out with the intent of curing the cancer. Rarely, liver transplantation is used a life-saving procedure in patients with acute liver failure, a condition that can deteriorate rapidly over a number of days, and which if untreated can lead to multi-organ failure and death.

Liver specialists at the London Liver Group have extensive expertise in the management of liver transplant patients, and some also work in major UK liver transplant centres. Transplant surgery itself is not currently performed at the London Clinic, but we are able to assess and advise patients as to their need and suitability for liver transplantation, and similarly review any potential living related donors.

We are able to care for patients who have had liver transplantation elsewhere and who now require a specialist to look after their new liver and manage their long-term immunosuppression.