Liver Transplant

Exceptional Outcomes for Liver Transplant Patients

Loyola Medicine offers the highest level of multidisciplinary, integrated care for liver disease and failure patients who may be considering a liver transplant. Loyola takes on the most challenging cases, some of which were turned away by other centers. 

A liver transplant is surgery to remove a damaged or diseased liver and replace it with a healthy donor liver. Preparation for a liver transplant is an extensive process and includes a detailed evaluation, a search for a donor liver, the transplant surgery and a recovery period. 

Liver transplant surgery may be a life-saving treatment for individuals with end-stage liver failure. It is an extensive surgery most often used when other medications and surgical procedures do not work to treat your condition. 

At Loyola, you will have an entire team on your side, including your transplant hepatologist, transplant surgeon, anesthesiologists, nurse coordinators, nurse practitioners, procurement nurses, interventional radiologists, transplant chaplains, infectious disease specialists, physical therapists, dietitians, financial coordinators, clinical pharmacists, social workers and psychologists. We have one goal: restoring you to better health.

Why Choose Loyola for Liver Transplants?

A successful liver transplant starts the moment you walk in the door. We are thorough in our testing and complete in our patient education. We will leave no question unanswered. Loyola’s doctors, nurse coordinators and nutritionists will ensure that you are in the best possible state of health before surgery and prepared for the next chapter in your life.
While you wait for a liver, you may face other health challenges related to your condition. Loyola’s subspecialists provide expertise in a wide range of health conditions, and your transplant team will facilitate a referral to an appropriate specialist if needed.

Loyola’s board-certified transplant surgeons are widely regarded in both traditional and minimally invasive surgery. Our transplant surgeons are highly skilled in advanced biliary surgeries and laparoscopic surgery for living donors, which leads to a quicker recovery and less pain. In addition, our infectious disease team works closely with donors and recipients to ensure that the transferred tissue is as healthy as possible. Loyola’s liver transplant patient- and graft-survival rates exceed national standards at the one- and three-month benchmarks.

Whether you need a liver or a multi-organ transplant, Loyola’s highly skilled transplant team will provide the most advanced care. As part of an academic medical center, Loyola’s doctors perform and teach the latest surgical techniques and medical practices. Our transplant team is often consulted by doctors at other hospitals because of their expertise and experience. We would welcome offering you a second opinion.

We also understand that receiving care close to home makes life easier, which is why we provide transplant hepatology care in 12 convenient locations across Chicago and the suburbs. Loyola’s hepatology program has earned a national reputation for excellent care. Our hepatologists are leaders in their field and board-certified in gastroenterology, hepatology and transplant hepatology. Our specialists have developed effective, nationally recognized treatment plans for hard-to-treat and advanced cases of hepatitis B, hepatitis C and hepatocellular carcinoma. 

What are the Different Types of Liver Transplants?

Transplant patients can receive livers from living and deceased organ donors. Loyola offers several types of liver transplants; your transplant team will recommend the right one for you.

  • Deceased donor — When a liver disease patient can’t find a suitable living donor, a match can occur through a deceased donor. A patient is placed on the national transplant list maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). Your wait time will depend on many factors, including your medical urgency, compatibility to the donor and geography (organs are matched within the same region whenever possible).
        
  • Living donor — Liver grafts from a healthy living donor, whether from a family member, friend or someone you don’t know, are the best option for a liver transplant because they tend to have the best outcomes. Learn more about our living liver donor program.

What Diseases are Treated with Liver Transplant?

Loyola’s hepatologists and transplant surgeons are well-versed in every type of liver disease and failure. If your condition is not well controlled using medical treatments, a liver transplant may be the best medical option. Some conditions that lead to end-stage liver disease and the need for liver transplant surgery include: 

  • Alcoholic cirrhosis
  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
  • Amoebic liver abscesses
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Bile duct cancer
  • Biliary atresia
  • Budd-Chiari syndrome
  • Cholangiocarcinoma
  • Coccidioidomycosis
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Delta agent (hepatitis D)
  • Early stage liver cancer
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Hepatic adenoma
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Hyperoxaluria and oxalosis
  • Liver cancer
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis
  • Polycystic liver disease
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Pyogenic liver abscesses
  • Reye syndrome
  • Wilson’s disease

Evaluation and Wait List for Liver Transplants

If your Loyola hepatologist recommends a liver transplant as the next step in your care, your healthcare team will confirm your diagnosis of end-stage liver disease and start your liver transplant evaluation. The evaluation has several steps, and we will guide you through the process. 

Your hepatologist first will take a detailed personal and medical history before conducting a physical examination. Several comprehensive tests will be ordered to assess the status of your health and determine your MELD score (model for end-stage liver disease). Once the test results are in, you will attend an educational class on the liver transplant process and meet with every member of your transplant care team.

The Medical Review Board will discuss your case and decide whether you are a good candidate for a liver transplant. If so, you will be placed on the national waiting list with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). Your wait time for a deceased-donor liver depends on many factors, including your medical urgency, compatibility to the donor and geography (organs are matched within the same region whenever possible).

However, the wait for a liver transplant can be greatly reduced if a friend or relative is interested in donating part of a liver for you. We will quickly evaluate your potential donor to determine whether this partial liver transplant could be a good match. We encourage you to participate in our support group, which will help you cope during this time. 

To learn more, read about Loyola’s evaluation for liver transplant process and check out our liver transplant frequently asked questions.

Ongoing Treatment and Recovery after Liver Transplant Surgery

Once you are on the list for a donor liver, your Loyola team will make sure that you are up to date on all tests. We also will work with you on your exercise and dietary plans so that you are in the best possible condition once an organ match is available. Once a match is confirmed, we will arrange the surgeries and start preparations.

There will be several last-minute tests after your arrival at the hospital. Your surgery will take five to 10 hours, and then you will start your recovery. You will be closely monitored after surgery and your nurses will be there to assess your pain and administer medication to make you comfortable. Your nurses will ask you to do some deep breathing exercises and coughing to prevent complications. If needed, physical therapists will work with you to get you up and walking. A catheter will remain in place for a few days to help your bladder after surgery. Many liver transplant recipients go home after a week or two.

You will be prescribed immunosuppression medications to prevent transplant rejection. Within the first day, you may notice a difference in how you feel due to your new, healthy liver. Your recovery will likely take six to eight weeks. Your nurse coordinator will map out your lab tests and doctor visits to assess your liver function. You will have many appointments in the first year after surgery, and gradually your primary care doctor will start to take over your care. Should you ever have a question, your Loyola transplant care team is available around the clock.

To learn more, read about liver transplant surgery at Loyola and check out our liver transplant frequently asked questions.

Comprehensive Donor Program for Liver Transplant Recipients

Loyola offers a unique living liver donor program to support potential liver donors and improve outcomes for our patients.

Liver grafts from a healthy living donor, whether from a family member, friend or someone you don’t know, are the best option for a liver transplant because they tend to have the best outcomes. This approach offers several advantages:

  • Having a living donor reduces the chances of health complications while on the waiting list.
     
  • The donated liver also spends less time outside the body, which increases viability of the donated tissue.
     
  • Living donor livers often start to function immediately after transplant surgery.
     
  • Transplant candidates and their donors have more flexibility in scheduling surgery. 

Learn more about Loyola’s living liver donor program.

Ongoing Clinical Trials to Advance Liver Transplant Research

Loyola is conducting research today that will lead to the treatments of tomorrow. Our hepatology program’s research expertise includes treatment options for liver transplant surgery, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, liver cancer and fatty liver disease. Loyola patients will be granted access to the latest medications and therapies through our clinical trials.