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Liver Transplant Waiting List

Once your UPMC transplant coordinator calls to let you know that we've placed you on the liver transplant waiting list, the next phase of your treatment begins.

Before undergoing a liver transplant, patients are put on a national waiting list.

Liver Transplant Waiting List Criteria

The The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) decides the criteria for those selected for the liver transplant waiting list.

Liver transplant candidates, ages 18 and older, will receive a Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score between 6-40. Liver candidates can be assigned any of the following MELD statuses:

  • Status 1A - Sudden and severe onset liver failure and life expectancy of hours to days without a liver transplant.
  • Calculated MELD score - MELD score calculated from lab values. This score is updated periodically while awaiting transplant.
  • MELD exception score - MELD exemptions may be granted for the following conditions: hepatocellular carcinoma, cholangiocarcinoma, cystic fibrosis, hepatopulmonary syndrome, familiar amyloid polyneuropathy, and certain other disease-specific conditions.
  • Inactive status - Temporarily ineligible for a deceased-donor liver transplant.

Your MELD score determines your priority on the transplant waiting list. Your MELD score is reflective of the likelihood of death within a three-month time frame.

The higher your MELD score, the higher priority for receiving a donor liver when one is available.

The allocation system ensures that candidates with the highest MELD/PELD scores — between 30 and 40 — get a transplant first.

To learn more about liver allocation and how many people are waiting for a liver transplant, see the OPTN (Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network) organ allocation policies.

Staying Close to UPMC While You Wait for a Liver Donor

While waiting for a liver transplant, remaining a close distance to the hospital is crucial.

When your coordinator calls, you will need to get to UPMC for your liver transplant within four to six hours.

Family House provides an affordable “home away from home" for liver transplant patients and their families.

Liver transplant support and follow-up

Once on the waiting list, your liver transplant coordinator will schedule you for follow-up appointments based on your overall medical condition and MELD score.

You will need to have blood work periodically to reevaluate your MELD score and be seen in the clinic at least every 6 months so the team can assess how ready you are for a transplant.

Most patients continue to see their primary hepatologist for follow-up care during this waiting time. Your doctor will remain in contact with the transplant team at UPMC, in addition to your regularly scheduled visits at UPMC.

Becoming Inactive on the Liver Transplant Waiting List

Please inform your liver transplant coordinator if you have to travel more than four hours away from UPMC.

We will update your status to an “inactive" status on the liver transplant wait list during your travel. Upon returning to the area, please notify your transplant coordinator to return your status to “active." This may require updated blood work to re-calculate your MELD score depending on your current condition.

You may also be placed on inactive status if other health issues arise while you're waiting for a donor liver, or if you are unable to comply with the wait list rules. You will not be penalized if you choose to change your status to inactive.

What Happens When a Donor Liver Becomes Available?

When a liver becomes available, your transplant coordinator will call you with instructions. Remember that you must have your phone on and ready for incoming calls at all times.

While you travel to UPMC, a member of UPMC's liver transplant team will evaluate the donor organ.

If the liver is a match for you, we'll prep you for surgery as soon as you arrive to the transplant unit.