The Waiting Period
Patients accepted as liver transplant candidates are placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) national computer list. This organization supervises organ recovery and allocation throughout the nation. It may take a few weeks to several months for a suitable liver, which is retrieved from a “brain dead” organ donor, to become available. To match a patient with a liver donor, the donor must be:
- Approximately the same weight and body size as the patient
- Free from disease, infection, or injury that affects the liver
- Usually of the same or a compatible blood type (see table below)
|Blood type||Can receive a liver from||Can donate a liver to|
|O||O||O, A, B, AB|
|A||A, O||A, AB|
|B||B, O||B, AB|
|AB||O, A, B, AB||AB|
Another very important factor that determines when patients receive a liver is their status. These criteria, overseen by UNOS, measure medical urgency and insure that the sickest patients have priority when a donor liver becomes available.
While waiting for a donor organ, patients continue medical therapy as supervised by their family physician, with periodic visits to see the transplant team. If patients travel outside of this area, which is not recommended, they must provide the nurse coordinator with a telephone number where they can be reached.
If patients must be hospitalized before the transplant, they may be admitted either into a hospital close to their home or University Hospital. The transplant coordinator must be notified when a liver transplant candidate is hospitalized, whatever the reason.
Transplant candidates must be prepared to travel to University Hospital the moment a liver becomes available. While that notification often brings hope for the patients, there are times when the donor liver is not appropriate for the candidate or is not in transplantable condition. If this happens, the patient is sent home until the next opportunity arises.