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, or CT, which uses X-rays and a computer to create pictures of the liver, showing its size and shape to rule out hepatocellular carcinoma. CTs and chest xrays will also be taken to evaluate your heart and lungs.
Doppler ultrasound to determine if the blood vessels to and from the liver are open.
Echocardiogram to help check the heart funtion.
- 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. HIV and other viral testing (Herpes and Epstein-Barr) 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 and acute liver failure are give the highest priority for liver transplantation. 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.