Waiting for Liver Transplant

If following the evaluation process it is determined that liver transplantation is the best treatment option for you, there will be a period of waiting for a compatible donor liver to become available. This may be a difficult time for you and your family. We will be available to assist you in coping, if necessary, during this time.

Your Status on the List

Your name will be added to a list of other patients waiting for a liver transplant. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the national agency that regulates organ transplantation. LifeLink of Georgia, the organ recovery agency for this area, will coordinate efforts to locate a donor for you. Your priority for transplant is based on what's called the "UNOS MELD" score: Your bilirubin, prothrombin time (INR), and creatinine are used to stage your priority. It is critical that you have labs done when requested and ensure that they are sent to us, or your score may be dropped to lower levels by UNOS. Generally, as your MELD score increases, you move up on the list. However, if your score gets too high, you may be too sick for a transplant.

Finding A Donor

There is absolutely no way to predict when a donor will become available. The wait, depending on your UNOS priority score, could be a few hours to several months or even years. Organ donors are people who have suffered brain death, usually as a result of an automobile or motorcycle accident.

After transplantation, only minimal information about your donor, such as the sex and approximate age, can be given to you to protect their privacy. Families often ask questions about the donor and how he or she died, but the transplant team cannot give out any information to you about the donor, nor do we give any information about you or your family to the donor family. This information is kept confidential.

We do encourage you to write a letter to the donor family at some point following your surgery. Please do not reveal your identity. If you choose to write a letter, a transplant team member will send it to LifeLink of Georgia, who will then forward it to the donor family.

Every effort will be made to find a donor quickly. The wait for a donor depends on your MELD score, blood type, body size, and the critical nature of your disease. To find a donor match for you, we look at three things:

  • You and the donor must have compatible blood types.
  • You and the donor must be close to the same weight.
  • You must not have antibodies that are incompatible with the donor.