October 2, 2019
Liver Transplant Evaluation Services at UPMC Susquehanna
If you, or someone you love, has been diagnosed with liver disease, you can now access the world-class expertise of the UPMC Liver Transplant Program in your own backyard. The Liver Transplant Evaluation Clinic at UPMC Susquehanna provides support for patients with chronic liver disease and offers a range of pre-liver transplant evaluation services.
For patients with liver disease, the appropriate treatment option and the right time to pursue a liver transplant are important things to consider. A pre-transplant evaluation with the team at UPMC Susquehanna can help answer all your questions.
The pre-transplant evaluation starts with a series of tests to determine if a liver transplant is right for you. The evaluation includes:
- Imaging scans
- Blood tests
- Diagnostic tests
- Consults and exams
- Ongoing education about liver transplant and living donation
Understanding Your MELD Score and the Liver Transplant Waiting List
If you are approved for a liver transplant, it’s important to understand how the waiting list works, how organs are matched and allocated, and why exploring living donation early can greatly reduce your time on the waiting list.
Following your pre-transplant evaluation, your doctor will give you a score between six and 40. This is called your Model for End-stage Liver Disease (MELD) score, and it’s based on your current health status and how urgently you need a transplant. The MELD score determines your rank on the transplant waiting list and reflects the likelihood of death within a three-month period. The higher your MELD score, the more likely you are to receive a deceased-donor liver when one becomes available.
While on the waiting list, you must undergo follow-up appointments and bloodwork every few months to reevaluate your MELD score. Any changes could affect your priority on the list and when you’ll receive a transplant.
How Are Organs Matched?
When an organ becomes available, several factors determine how that organ is matched to someone on the waiting list, including:
- Blood type
- MELD score
- Waiting time
- Geographic distance between the donor organ and recipient
- Size of the donor organ in relation to the recipient
To start, anyone on the waiting list who isn’t a match for a donated organ is removed from the list of potential recipients. Once the list is condensed, the organ is matched with a recipient based on medical compatibility.
A deceased-donor liver can be preserved for eight to 12 hours, so geography, timing, and distance from the hospital are very important. The United States is divided into 11 geographical zones to help regulate transplantation and organ allocation. Each transplant center is part of one of those 11 zones. When a donor liver becomes available in one of the 11 zones, people on the waiting list within that region are screened to determine who’s the best match.
Living Donation: A Life-saving Solution
With more than 14,000 people currently on the liver transplant waiting list, the need for organ donors grows every day. Despite increased awareness of organ donation and the pressing need for donors, people with end-stage liver disease continue to die while on the waiting list because an appropriate match wasn’t found in time.
For patients with liver disease, including those with low MELD scores, living donation presents a life-saving option. During a living-donor liver transplant, a living person has a piece of their healthy liver removed and transplanted into another person to replace their unhealthy liver. The donor and the recipient’s liver will regenerate within a few months.
Living-donor liver transplants save lives by allowing people to receive a transplant sooner. Additional benefits of living donation include:
- Little or no wait time
- Quicker recovery time
- Improved long-term outcomes
At the time of your pre-transplant evaluation, if your MELD score was too low and you are not listed for a liver transplant, living donation is still an option for you. Identifying a living donor can help you receive a transplant before your condition worsens and it’s too late.
When it comes to living-donor liver transplants, early evaluation is key, so it’s important to explore this option as soon as possible. To learn more about what to expect on the liver transplant waiting list and the pre-transplant evaluation services offered at UPMC Susquehanna, visit LifeChangingLiver.com/Susquehanna.