Will my liver transplant be successful?

Written by: Dr Deepak Joshi
Published:
Edited by: Nicholas Howley

Every year, there are around 800 liver transplants in the UK. If you’re a patient on a waiting list, it’s natural to worry how long you’ll have to wait, and whether the operation will be successful. We spoke to leading consultant hepatologist Dr Deepak Joshi about the procedure and what patients can expect from it.

At what point is a liver transplant required for treating liver disease?

A liver transplant might be needed if you have severe liver disease.

The symptoms of liver disease include:

  • lethargy
  • swelling of abdomen with fluid (ascites)
  • yellowness of the eyes (jaundice).

A liver transplant may be also considered in cases of primary liver cancer. A liver transplant is usually required when no other treatments are likely to work or have failed already.

What happens if my doctors think I need a liver transplant?

All patients that are being considered for a liver transplant need to undergo a liver transplant assessment. This involves assessing the individual’s heart, lungs and kidneys for concurrent diseases. A psychological and social assessment as well as nutritional assessment is also conducted.

During the assessment, the individual is reviewed by a transplant surgeon, anaesthetist, transplant co-ordinator (specialist nurse) and hepatologist. Candidacy and suitability is then discussed in a meeting with multiple members of the team.

What is the average waiting time for a liver transplant?

Patients are listed for liver transplantation according to their blood group and therefore, the waiting time is highly variable. In March 2018, however, the UK changed over to a new donor allocation system – and this has dramatically reduced the waiting list.

What is the success rate for liver transplants, and what happens if a transplant is not successful?

Liver transplantation is highly successful. Our aim is to enable the recipient to return to their normal family and working life. One year survival is greater than 95% and 5 year survival is greater than 80%.

In certain cases where the transplant has been unsuccessful, re-transplantation has to be considered, but this is not common.

What is living with a liver transplant like?

If you have severe liver disease or liver cancer a liver transplant will undoubtedly improve your quality of life. To maintain this quality of life, however, it is important that you adhere to your medication. After a liver transplant, you will need to take life-long immunosuppression (tablets that prevent rejection of the new liver). Finally, liver transplant recipients should not smoke or drink alcohol.

By Dr Deepak Joshi
Hepatology (liver specialist)

Dr Deepak Joshi is a leading consultant hepatologist in London, who specialises in liver disease, liver transplant and cirrhosis. After qualifying in medicine at King's College in 2001 he went on to train in hepatology at the Institute of Liver Studies, where he carried out a PhD researching into predictors of fibrosis in patients following a liver transplant. He further honed his skills in endoscopy and ERCP, training at the reputable University College London Hospitals.

An active researcher in the hepatology field, he has published extensively in peer-reviewed papers, contributed to book chapters, and co-authored Hepatology at a Glance. His main clinical interests include biliary disease, as well as treatment and management of all kinds of conditions to do with the liver or pancreas. At present, he works as consultant hepatologist at the Guthrie Clinic, and consultant hepatologist at the Institute of Liver Studies, King's College Hospital.

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