Getting a Liver Transplant

Liver disease makes it difficult for your body to eliminate toxins and digest food. As a result, you may have pain and stomach problems. Eventually, end-stage liver disease can make skin jaundiced, or yellow, and cause swelling. A liver transplant can offer you a second chance at life.

You may have concerns about undergoing the procedure. We provide you with compassionate, informed care to ease your worries. This approach is one reason that the liver transplant program at UNC Medical Center is nationally recognized for transplant excellence.

What Causes Liver Failure?

Liver failure usually develops gradually over the years, but sometimes it comes on suddenly. Conditions that increase the risk of liver failure include:

  • Cancers of the bile duct or liver
  • Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
  • Genetic disorders, such as hemochromatosis (iron buildup)
  • Hepatitis (inflammation of the liver)
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (a metabolic condition)

Liver Transplant Screenings

You undergo numerous medical tests to determine if you are eligible for a liver transplant. Our goal is to make these tests convenient for you. You may be able to do certain tests at your local hospital or at UNC Health Care clinics located throughout the state. Tests may include:

  • Complete physical exam with blood tests
  • Abdominal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Doppler ultrasound of the liver
  • Heart tests
  • Chest X-rays
  • Lung function tests
  • Mental health assessment

Getting on the Liver Transplant Waiting List: MELD Score

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) manages the national liver transplant waiting list. UNOS uses the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score to prioritize people waiting for a liver.

MELD scores are based on lab results and range from six (less ill) to 40 (gravely ill). Because MELD scores fluctuate, you undergo periodic blood tests to check your score.

If tests show that you are not a good candidate for a liver transplant due to failing health, UNC liver specialists (hepatologists) work with you to develop an appropriate care plan.

Family Support Services

We recognize that the liver transplant process can seem daunting, so a transplant coordinator provides individualized support.

This specialist serves as your family’s expert guide before, during and after transplant. Other members of your dedicated patient support team can help with accommodations, billing issues, mental health counseling and other services.

Contact Us

Call (919) 966-2516 to find out more about liver transplants at UNC Medical Center.

Contact Us

To make an appointment for a liver transplant evaluation, call 919-966-2516. Ask your doctor for a referral before you call.

Pediatric Transplants

Looking for information on pediatric transplant care? Visit our pediatric transplant care page.

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