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What to Expect While Waiting on the Liver Transplant List

Doctor and nurse discuss medical chart with patient in a hospital bedWhen you are approved for placement on Tampa General Hospital’s liver transplant list and your insurance company provides final approval for your transplant, your transplant coordinator will submit your information to a database maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). The listing will make note of your blood type, body size, and transplant status; this information will be used to find a suitable organ for your transplant. The UNOS database will also include your contact information, including your name, address, home phone number, and cell phone number.
When you are placed on the UNOS liver transplant list, provided that you are 12 years of age or older, you will be assigned a Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score. Your MELD score will be based on three lab values:
  • Bilirubin, which indicates how effectively your liver is excreting bile
  • INR (prothrombin time), which indicates how well your liver can make blood clotting substances
  • Creatinine, which reflects your kidney function (kidney impairment often occurs alongside severe liver disease)
  • Sodium, which is reflects your body's fluid balance
MELD scores can range from six to 40; the higher your MELD score, the more urgent your need for a transplant. If you know your values for these three lab values, you can enter them here to calculate your MELD score. However, note that your score may go up or down over time, and that most patients will have their MELD score adjusted several times while waiting on the liver transplant list.
Patients with the most urgent need will be considered first as organs become available. The only exceptions are for patients in the category of status 1A, indicating acute (sudden and severe onset) liver failure and a life expectancy of a few hours to a few days without a transplant, or status 1B, indicating a pediatric (age less than 18) patient with a chronic illness. At any given time, less than 1 percent of patients on the liver transplant list are classified as status 1A or 1B. You can learn more about liver allocation here.
While you wait on the liver transplant list, you will need to adhere to several transplant personal care regulations. For instance, you will need to:
  • liver referral form buttonSee your transplant doctor regularly
  • Maintain your physical health
  • Eat the right foods
  • Maintain a chemical- and nicotine-free lifestyle
  • Call us if your insurance changes
If you decide you would like to write a letter of thanks to your donor’s family after your transplant, you may do so, but please do not include your last name or other personal details. Similarly, you will not receive any personal details about your donor. Your nurse coordinator will forward your letter to the donor’s family through LifeLink Foundation, Inc., the organ procurement organization Tampa General Hospital works with to that finds organs for the patients on our liver transplant list.