Infographic of the different parts of the liver

What are the symptoms of liver failure?

Signs and symptoms of liver failure can include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
  • Changes in thought or mood, such as confusion or irritability
  • Swollen belly
  • Bleeding tendencies
  • Muscle wasting

Am I eligible for a liver transplant?

If your liver is no longer working well and symptoms are not well-controlled by medication or if you develop a liver or bile duct cancer, your doctor may recommend you undergo a liver transplant. As part of the evaluation process for receiving a transplanted liver, you’ll undergo several tests, including blood tests and imaging. Your doctor will want to make sure you’re healthy enough to undergo surgery for the new liver, and that any donated liver matches your blood type and is the right size for your body.

Liver transplant for liver cancer patients

Optimal treatment for liver cancer involves input from many different specialists, including transplant hepatologists, transplant oncologists, and transplant and hepatobiliary surgeons. The UChicago Medicine Liver Tumor Program brings together specialists from our cancer and digestive disease programs — two programs ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report — and offers personalized care for patients with primary liver cancer as well as bile duct cancer and benign tumors of the liver. Our team has the expertise to determine if patients may benefit from a liver transplant.

What are the two types of liver transplants?

Most livers that are donated come from deceased donors. Before your transplant occurs, the donated liver will be screened for diseases and checked to make sure it’s a match with your blood type. Living donations involve a healthy living person donating part of their liver. Often, this ends up being someone from the patient’s family. When a person donates part of the liver, their remaining liver is able to grow back after the transplant. Your new donated liver will also grow.

How long will I wait on the liver transplant list?

The time to receive a liver varies from person to person. In general, livers are distributed to the sickest individual first, based on the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) Score. The MELD score is calculated based on one’s kidney function, bilirubin and clotting time, with a high score suggesting a sicker condition and hence a higher position on the wait list. Receiving a liver transplant can take time, from months to more than a year (far more people wait for liver transplants than receive them in any given year in the United States).

To begin, your name will be added to the donor waiting list; because the sickest patients are highest on the list, it’s important that your doctor is aware of any changes in your health. Sometimes, a patient may be called to the hospital for an available donor only to learn that the donor isn’t suitable after further examination, or that significant changes to the patient’s health have increased the risk for complications. This may be disappointing, but please remember that your care team has your best interest in mind when decisions are made.

UChicago Medicine's liver team transplants patients at a faster rate and with better waitlist survival rates than almost any other program in the country.

How long can a liver last outside the body?

Traditionally, donated organs need to be preserved on ice to be transported to a patient in need. A liver can last 10 - 12 hours in cold storage before being transplanted. However, the latest transplant technologies are changing organ preservation practices and improving access to liver transplantation.

Ex Vivo Normothermic Perfusion for Liver Transplantation

UChicago Medicine is dedicated to adopting transplant innovations to provide patients with the best outcomes. We are one of the only transplant programs in the country using Ex Vivo Normothermic Perfusion — a method of preservation that can keep livers alive outside of the body. This is one of the most advanced technologies to preserve, transport and assess livers for transplantation.

Machine perfusion is a new era of transplant technology that:

  • Extends the window of operating time
  • Allows the liver to survive longer outside of the body
  • Lessens the rush for immediate liver transplant.

All of which can decrease post-transplantation complications and improve liver transplant outcomes.

What is liver dialysis?

MARS liver dialysis machine for liver failure

UChicago Medicine offers patients a new, innovative treatment for liver failure. The Molecular Adsorbent Recirculating System (MARS) is a liver dialysis machine used in the treatment of liver failure to enable native liver regeneration. It removes protein-bound and water-soluble toxins from the blood and reduces the amounts of toxins that reach the brain.

The MARS system helps prevent irreversible organ failure and improves liver regeneration and recovery. The machine can help liver failure patients recover from an acute episode and enhance the chances of survival while waiting for an available organ donor. UChicago Medicine is the only center in the Chicagoland area to offer this complex medical therapy.

Liver Transplant Care Locations

Request an Appointment

The information you provide will enable us to assist you as efficiently as possible. A representative will contact you within one to two business days to help you schedule an appointment.

You can also make an appointment with our providers by:

Scheduling a virtual video visit to see a provider from the comfort of your home

Requesting an online second opinion from our specialists 

To speak to someone directly, please call 1-888-824-0200. If you have symptoms of an urgent nature, please call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.


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Liver Transplant Care