Which Tests Are Required Before Getting a Liver Transplant?
You will need to bring all previous doctor records, X-rays, liver biopsy slides, and a record of medications to your pre-evaluation for a liver transplant. To complement and update previous tests, some or all of the following studies are generally performed during an evaluation.
- Computed tomography, which uses X-rays and a computer to create pictures of the liver, showing its size and shape
- Doppler ultrasound to determine if the blood vessels to and from the liver are open
- Echocardiogram to help check the heart
- Pulmonary function studies to determine the lungs' ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide
- Blood tests to determine blood type, clotting ability, and biochemical status of blood, and to gauge liver function. AIDS testing and hepatitis screening are also included.
If specific problems are identified, additional tests may be ordered.
How Does the Liver Transplant Waiting List Work?
If you become an active liver transplant candidate, your name will be placed on a waiting list. Patients are listed according to blood type, body size, and medical condition (how ill they are). Each patient is given a priority score based on three simple blood tests (creatinine, bilirubin, and INR). The score is known as the MELD (model of end-stage liver disease) score in adults and PELD (pediatric end-stage liver disease) in children.
Patients with the highest scores are transplanted first. As they become more ill, their scores rise and their priority for transplant increases, allowing for the sickest patients to be transplanted first. A small group of patients who are critically ill from acute liver disease have the highest priority on the waiting list.
It's impossible to predict how long a patient will wait for a liver to become available. Your transplant coordinator is always available to discuss where you are on the waiting list.
Where Does a Liver for a Transplant Come From?
There are two types of liver transplant options: living donor transplant and deceased donor transplant.
Living donor liver transplants are an option for some patients with end-stage liver disease. This involves removing a segment of liver from a healthy living donor and implanting it into a recipient. Both the donor and recipient liver segments will grow to normal size in a few weeks.