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Lifesaving care

John and Roberta Drace. John, a California physician, turned to The University of Kansas Hospital's Center for Transplantation when he learned he needed a liver transplant.

"I couldn't get over the fact that something so devastating and potentially life-ending was 100% curable with a transplant." – John Drace, MD, liver transplant recipient.

Liver Transplant Process

Our comprehensive and experienced care team will support you through the entire transplant process, from referral through ongoing follow-up care. The process includes these steps:

Referral

When you are referred for a liver transplant evaluation, we will assign you a transplant coordinator. Transplant coordinators guide patients through initial testing and appointments and answer questions throughout your transplant journey.

Evaluation

In order to determine whether you are a transplant candidate, you will need a transplant evaluation. A transplant evaluation is a series of outpatient appointments that provide our transplant team with a thorough medical and psychosocial understanding of your condition to determine your candidacy for a liver transplant. 

Waiting list

If we determine that the best treatment option for you is a liver transplant, your name will be added to our waiting list. The timeframe that you will be on our waiting list varies by individual. Organs are allocated by blood type, body size and MELD score (the severity of your liver disease). While you are on the waiting list, it is important for you to:

  • Stay active
    Keep your muscles and body in shape in line with your physical abilities. Check with your primary care physician or cardiologist to make sure your exercise routine is right for your current physical condition.
  • Maintain a healthy diet
    If you're on a protein-restricted diet, you can get information from the transplant team or meet with a dietitian to help customize a diet that accommodates your tastes, habits and needs.
  • Quit smoking
    If you need help, ask the liver transplant coordinator.
  • Lose weight if needed
    This will help reduce the risk of complications during and after the transplant. Most important, dropping excess weight will protect your overall health.
  • Get help if you feel depressed
    Depression is common among people waiting for transplant. Our trained staff can advise you about available options from support groups to antidepressant medications.
  • Stay connected
    Make every effort to stay in touch with friends and loved ones. Your support system is very important through every stage of the transplant process.
  • Join a support group
    A forum for learning and sharing can be very valuable to you and your family. For more information on local support groups, contact the transplant social worker or liver transplant coordinator.

The process for liver transplants at The University of Kansas Health System

Surgery

When an organ has been identified for you, a liver transplant coordinator will contact you and provide instructions.

Liver transplant surgery is complex and usually takes between two and four hours. The transplant surgeon will make an incision on the upper part of your abdomen below your ribcage. The surgeon will remove the diseased liver and implant the donor liver by reconnecting blood vessels and bile ducts.

After the surgery, you will be transferred to the ICU, where you will spend about two days. You will spend three to five days in the transplant unit. You will work with our multidisciplinary team for your posttransplant care. These team members include:

  • Transplant surgeon
  • Transplant hepatologist
  • Transplant nurse coordinator
  • Social worker
  • Dietitian
  • Pharmacist

Follow-up care

Your care does not end when you leave the hospital. You will continue to receive exceptional care throughout your lifetime. Your liver transplant team will continue to follow and monitor your progress and address any questions you have along the way.

Transplant success is up to you

You play a crucial role in your transplant recovery and overall success. Follow the instructions of your doctors, keep lab and doctor appointments and call your liver transplant coordinator if there are any problems. Follow these important tips to maintain the function of your new liver:

  • Take your medications as prescribed. The transplant team will make adjustments as necessary.
  • To help ensure your liver is working properly, you will have blood work as necessary.
  • Keep all of your scheduled appointments. You will be seen in our transplant clinic.
  • Over time, we will transition care to your primary care physician. The transplant team will continue to follow and monitor your liver transplant care for a lifetime.
  • Eat right and exercise regularly.
  • Never hesitate to contact your transplant team with questions or concerns.