Weighing approximately three pounds in adults, the liver is the largest of the body’s internal organs. You can find it on the right side of the abdomen below the diaphragm. Liver transplant refers to the replacement of a patient’s destroyed liver with a partial or whole healthy liver from a donor. Liver failure or severe infections mean that the liver cannot function and there it must be replaced.
In the United States, there are many healthcare facilities that provide liver transplant services. However, you may need to travel from your home to these facilities. Although insurance plans cover medical treatments, travel costs are not covered. You therefore need to make plans for your travel.
If you already know where you want to go for liver transplant, consultation or second opinion, you can go ahead and plan your travel. If you are looking for a suitable hospital for liver transplant, you can check our list of the best liver transplant hospitals in the United States. For those who are unable to meet their travel expenses on their own, you can check our directory of charitable organizations that help to arrange free travel for liver transplants and other healthcare needs.
About Liver Transplant
As a vital organ, one cannot live without a liver. It has quite a number of critical functions that includes the following;
- Metabolism of toxins and drugs
- Removal of degradation elements of normal metabolism such as ammonia, bilirubin from the blood
- Synthesis of important enzymes and proteins such as those essential for blood clotting
- Metabolism or breaking down of food nutrients to provide energy when needed
Liver transplant is required when the liver fails meaning that it is unable to function properly and adequately. Liver failure can be abrupt (acute liver failure) or happen as a result of drug-induced injury, infection or viral hepatitis. It can also happen as the final outcome of a long-term condition. Among the conditions that can lead to chronic liver failure include chronic hepatitis with cirrhosis. This may be as a result of the following;
- Sclerosing Cholangitis
- Primary Biliary Cholangitis
- Biliary Atresia
- Wilson’s disease
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
Signs and Symptoms of Liver Conditions
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Fluid retention
Causes of Chronic Liver Injury
- Viral hepatitis: Hepatitis B infection is responsible for about five percent of liver transplantation done in the US. However, this type of hepatitis is responsible for a bigger percentage of the same in other parts of the world especially Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Hepatitis C accounts for about 50 percent of liver transplants in the US and therefore the most common indication.
- Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), this is the deposition of fat in the cells of the liver resulting in scarring and inflammation.
- Metabolic liver diseases: These include the following;
- Hemachromatosis, the excess iron being deposited in the liver
- Genetic Liver Disease
- Wilson’s disease, the abnormal metabolism of copper
- Glycogen storage disease (type I, III, IV), this is a hereditary metabolic condition.
- Alpha-1 anti-trypsin deficiency, this is lack of a gene element that limits the activity of trypsin, an enzyme that digests protein. With time this results in continuous destruction of the liver and lung.
Where to Go for Liver Transplant
There are many healthcare facilities in the United States where patients can go for liver transplants. These hospitals are equipped with state-of-the-art modern medical equipments and machines suitable for all organ transplants in the most convenient and safe manner. Among these high-quality organ transplant hospitals include the following;
- UCSF Medical Center
The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center is one of the leading liver transplant facilities in the United States. The UCSF Liver Transplant Program has so far performed more than 30,000 successful liver transplants to both adults and children since its inception in 1988. The program features the best doctors and support staff in the nation.
Treatment of Liver Conditions through Liver Transplant
When an individual experiences liver failure, the best treatment is liver transplant. Within the last five years, the number of patents in the waiting list of liver transplant has largely remained constant. There is therefore a need for an allocation policy that determines how the available organs can be distributed to the many patients on the waiting list of liver transplant.
Three simple blood tests are done in order to determine the priority score of the patients. These blood tests center on bilirubin, creatinine and INR. The resulting score is referred to as model of end-stage liver disease or simply as MELD in adults and pediatric end-stage liver disease or simply PELD in children.
The higher the score the patient has, the higher the priority given for liver transplant. As the patient becomes more ill, the priority rises. In this way, the sickest patients are given the highest priority.
Risks Associated with Liver Diseases and Liver Transplant
There are many risks associated with liver diseases, liver failure and necessity for liver transplant. Among these risks include the following;
- Obesity and diseases as a result of lifestyle
- Viral liver infections
- Family history and heredity
- Alcoholism and cirrhosis
- Genetic diseases
Who Can Go for Liver Transplant
There are many candidates for liver transplant but not all of them qualify for the same. Persons suffering from cirrhosis, decompensated liver disease and liver failure are the ones who can go for liver transplant. However, organ transplant requires more than just the necessity of the same. Other factors are considered when determining who is to undergo surgical operations and who should not and for what organ. In case of the necessity for operation, the following can go for liver transplant;
- Patient capable of surviving the procedure and the potential of post-surgical complications
- Patient capable of unfailingly taking medications that hinder rejection and opportunistic infectivity
- Patient capable of complying with consistent clinic visits and lab tests
- Patient capable or not engaging in issues that can cause injury to the liver like substance abuse (taking alcohol and/or drugs)
- Patient without sever, irreversible medical conditions limiting expectancy of life
- Patients without cancer that has spread outside the liver
- Patients without severe pulmonary hypertension