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What Is a MELD Score?

Anyone with a serious liver disease should understand what a MELD score is and how doctors arrive at this important number. If you are a candidate for a liver transplant, a MELD score helps determine how urgently you need a transplant.

What Does MELD Score Mean?

The MELD score estimates a patient’s chances of surviving their disease during the next three months. Organ allocation is determined by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). Livers from deceased donors are allocated to the sickest patients first.

MELD Score Range

The MELD score ranges from six to 40 and is based on results from several lab tests. The higher the number, the more likely you are to receive a liver from a deceased donor when an organ becomes available.

Liver Transplant Waiting List: Additional Considerations

Your MELD score is a prime indicator in determining how urgently you need a transplant. But, it isn't the only factor. Other considerations include:

  • Your blood type
  • Your body size relative to the donor’s
  • Geographical considerations (i.e. how close you are to the donor liver)
  • Current supply of, and demand for, deceased donor livers

Living-Donor Liver Transplant for Patients with a Low MELD Score

While patients with a MELD score less than 15 are often not listed for a liver transplant because their chance of receiving a liver through traditional allocation is so low, a living-donor liver transplant offers a life-saving option and the opportunity to receive a transplant sooner. By exploring a living donor transplant, patients with a low MELD score can still be considered for a liver transplant.

Patients with a low MELD score should still be considered for a liver transplant since a significant number of patients are much sicker than what their MELD score can represent. Living-donor liver transplant can be a life-saving option to this subset of patients who otherwise cannot get a deceased donor liver transplant with the UNOS MELD score allocation.

How Is Your MELD Score Calculated?

Your MELD score is based on results from four blood tests that, together, show how well your body is functioning. You will be tested for:

  • INR (internal normalized ratio): Indicates whether your liver is making the proteins necessary for blood to clot
  • Creatinine: Indicates how well your kidneys are working
  • Bilirubin: Indicates how well your liver is clearing a substance called bile
  • Serum sodium: Indicates how well your body is regulating fluid balance

How Often Is Your MELD Score Updated?

Your MELD score changes as your condition changes. If you get sicker, your score goes up.

Depending on how critical your disease is, your MELD score may be recalculated as often as once a week.

Doctors look at your last MELD score to determine when to order new lab tests.

Here are typical MELD scores and how often they're recalculated:

  • 25 or higher: Every week
  • 19-24: Every 30 days
  • 11-18: Every three months
  • 10 or less: Once a year

Updating Your MELD Score

Since your MELD score is calculated by your doctor, you're not responsible for updating it. It's up to your doctor to decide when you need new tests.

Make sure you attend all follow-up appointments and complete all necessary lab tests — and check in with your doctor anytime your condition worsens. You should call your transplant coordinator if you have questions about your MELD score.

Additional Questions? Contact Us

To learn more about the liver transplant process and for answers to your MELD score questions, visit UPMC Transplant Services or call 833-514-5999.