If a doctor tells you or a loved one that it’s time to consider a liver transplant, you’ll have many questions. One of the first — and most important — questions is how to find the right liver transplant center for you.
Here is what to consider as you begin your search.
Learn About Liver Transplant Programs
Start by visiting the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) to learn which medical centers perform liver transplants. The U.S. government uses SRTR to track and analyze data from every organ transplant in the country.
You can search SRTR by organ and geographic location. Or you can just pull up the list of all 148 liver transplant centers. The database tells you how many deceased-donor and living-donor liver transplants each center performs per year.
You can also see how each center compares to the national average in:
- Survival time on waitlist.
- Time to getting a deceased donor transplant.
- One-year survival rate.
It is important to know that which center you pick will not affect your chances of getting an organ. The U.S. uses a national waiting list and allocation system managed by the nonprofit United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).
However, every center makes its own rules about who they will admit to their liver transplant program. So, you’ll need to find one that takes patients like you.
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Find the Right Program for You
Just as you will need to be a good match with a donor organ, the same goes for liver transplant centers. Not all transplant centers are a good fit for each patient, and vice versa. Some centers do not perform living-donor transplants or don’t offer transplants to patients with certain diagnoses, for example.
To help bridge this knowledge gap, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has teamed up with SRTR to create TransplantCenterSearch.org. This website allows you to customize your search by entering your personal and medical data, including:
- Geographical preference.
- Age, height, weight, and Body Mass Index.
- Cause of liver disease.
- HIV and hepatitis status.
- Your insurance provider.
Your personalized search results may help you narrow down your choices.
Know What’s Important in a Transplant Center
Your doctor will undoubtedly offer you advice about what to look for in a liver transplant center. Here are some factors to consider:
- How close is the transplant center to your home? Organ transplants require many medical visits and tests both before and after transplant. Once you are on the waitlist for a deceased-donor organ, you’ll need to be within a certain distance of the transplant center at all times.
- Does the transplant center have experience successfully transplanting patients with your diagnosis? Some liver conditions make transplants more challenging. You want a center with a solid record of success with your condition.
- Does the transplant center offer living-donor liver transplants? Living-donor transplants may get you a healthy organ more quickly. This type of transplant also frees up a deceased-donor organ for someone else. Not all centers offer living-donor transplants.
- Has another liver transplant center turned you down? Some centers will not consider you for liver transplantation if another center has previously turned you down. However, UPMC still considers such patients.
Get a Referral to a Liver Transplant Center
The only way to know whether a transplant center will accept you is to request an evaluation. The evaluation process starts with a referral, most often from the doctor who manages your liver disease.
Some centers, including the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, also accept self-referrals. To learn about what information UPMC requires, see the liver transplant referral checklist. In addition to demographic and insurance information, you will need to provide medical records, including:
- Most recent outpatient records.
- Discharge summaries from prior hospitalizations.
- Operative notes from all surgeries.
- Imaging studies showing your liver and its condition.
- Recent laboratory reports.
- Reports from any previous transplant evaluations, including letters of acceptance or rejection.
Get Evaluated for a Liver Transplant
Once you submit your medical records, the transplant team will review them. Financial coordinators at the transplant center will verify your health insurance benefits. If you clear these steps, a transplant coordinator will schedule a pre-liver transplant evaluation for you.
The evaluation will involve you spending about a week at the transplant center undergoing many tests and assessments. Once testing is complete, the center will inform you whether they will accept you as a liver transplant candidate.
If UPMC decides you’re not a candidate for transplant, the transplant team will refer you to the UPMC Center for Liver Diseases. The expert liver specialists there can provide medical therapy and additional treatment options.
About Transplant Services
For more than four decades, UPMC Transplant Services has been a leader in organ transplantation. Our clinicians have performed more than 20,000 organ transplant procedures, making UPMC one of the foremost organ transplant centers in the world. We are home to some of the world’s foremost transplant experts and take on some of the most challenging cases. Through research, we have developed new therapies that provide our patients better outcomes — so organ recipients can enjoy better health with fewer restrictions. Above all, we are committed to providing compassionate, complete care that can change – and save – our patients’ lives. Visit our website to find a provider near you.