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Liver transplantation


Liver transplantation

Liver transplantation
Human liver
ICD-9-CM 50.5

Liver transplantation or hepatic transplantation is the replacement of a anastomoses and sutures, and many disconnections and reconnections of abdominal and hepatic tissue, must be made for the transplant to succeed, requiring an eligible recipient and a well-calibrated live or cadaveric donor match.


  • History 1
  • Indications 2
  • Techniques 3
  • Immunosuppressive management 4
  • Graft rejection 5
  • Results 6
  • Living donor transplantation 7
    • Liver donor requirements 7.1
    • Complications 7.2
    • Pediatric transplantation 7.3
    • Benefits 7.4
    • Screening for donors 7.5
  • Controversy over eligibility for alcoholics 8
  • Preservation of the liver before transplantation 9
  • References 10
  • Sources 11
  • Further reading 12
  • External links 13


The first human liver transplant was performed in 1963 by a surgical team led by Dr. Thomas Starzl of Denver, Colorado, United States. Dr. Starzl performed several additional transplants over the next few years before the first short-term success was achieved in 1967 with the first one-year survival post transplantation. Despite the development of viable surgical techniques, liver transplantation remained experimental through the 1970s, with one year patient survival in the vicinity of 25%. The introduction of cyclosporin by Sir Roy Calne, Professor of Surgery Cambridge, markedly improved patient outcomes, and the 1980s saw recognition of liver transplantation as a standard clinical treatment for both adult and pediatric patients with appropriate indications. Liver transplantation is now performed at over one hundred centers in the US, as well as numerous centres in Europe and elsewhere. One-year patient survival is 80–85%, and outcomes continue to improve, although liver transplantation remains a formidable procedure with frequent complications. The supply of liver allografts from non-living donors is far short of the number of potential recipients, a reality that has spurred the development of living donor liver transplantation. The first altruistic living liver donation in Britain was performed in December 2012 in St James University Hospital Leeds.


Liver transplantation is potentially applicable to any acute or chronic condition resulting in irreversible liver dysfunction, provided that the recipient does not have other conditions that will preclude a successful transplant. Uncontrolled metastatic cancer outside liver, active drug or alcohol abuse and active septic infections are absolute contraindications. While infection with HIV was once considered an absolute contraindication, this has been changing recently. Advanced age and serious heart, pulmonary or other disease may also prevent transplantation (relative contraindications). Most liver transplants are performed for chronic liver diseases that lead to irreversible scarring of the liver, or cirrhosis of the liver. Some centers use the Milan criteria to select patients with liver cancers for liver transplantation


Before transplantation, liver-support therapy might be indicated (bridging-to-transplantation). Artificial liver support like liver dialysis or bioartificial liver support concepts are currently under preclinical and clinical evaluation. Virtually all liver transplants are done in an orthotopic fashion, that is, the native liver is removed and the new liver is placed in the same anatomic location. The transplant operation can be conceptualized as consisting of the hepatectomy (liver removal) phase, the anhepatic (no liver) phase, and the postimplantation phase. The operation is done through a large incision in the upper abdomen. The hepatectomy involves division of all ligamentous attachments to the liver, as well as the common bile duct, hepatic artery, hepatic vein and portal vein. Usually, the retrohepatic portion of the inferior vena cava is removed along with the liver, although an alternative technique preserves the recipient's vena cava ("piggyback" technique).

The donor's blood in the liver will be replaced by an ice-cold organ storage solution, such as UW (Viaspan) or HTK until the allograft liver is implanted. Implantation involves anastomoses (connections) of the inferior vena cava, portal vein, and hepatic artery. After blood flow is restored to the new liver, the biliary (bile duct) anastomosis is constructed, either to the recipient's own bile duct or to the small intestine. The surgery usually takes between five and six hours, but may be longer or shorter due to the difficulty of the operation and the experience of the surgeon.

The large majority of liver transplants use the entire liver from a non-living donor for the transplant, particularly for adult recipients. A major advance in pediatric liver transplantation was the development of reduced size liver transplantation, in which a portion of an adult liver is used for an infant or small child. Further developments in this area included split liver transplantation, in which one liver is used for transplants for two recipients, and living donor liver transplantation, in which a portion of a healthy person's liver is removed and used as the allograft. Living donor liver transplantation for pediatric recipients involves removal of approximately 20% of the liver (Couinaud segments 2 and 3).

Further advance in liver transplant involves only resection of the lobe of the liver involved in tumors and the tumor-free lobe remains within the recipient. This speeds up the recovery and the patient stay in the hospital quickly shortens to within 5–7 days.

Many major medical centers are now using radiofrequency ablation of the liver tumor as a bridge while awaiting for liver transplantation. This technique has not been used universally and further investigation is warranted.

Immunosuppressive management

Like most other allografts, a liver transplant will be corticosteroids plus a calcineurin inhibitor such as tacrolimus or cyclosporin plus a purine antagonist such as mycophenolate mofetil. Clinical outcome is better with tacrolimus than with cyclosporin during the first year of liver transplantation.[1][2] If the patient has a co-morbidity such as active hepatitis B, high doses of hepatitis B immunoglubins are administrated in liver transplant patients.

Liver transplantation is unique in that the risk of chronic rejection also decreases over time, although the great majority of recipients need to take immunosuppressive medication for the rest of their lives. It is possible to be slowly taken off anti rejection medication but only in certain cases. It is theorized that the liver may play a yet-unknown role in the maturation of certain cells pertaining to the immune system. There is at least one study by Thomas E. Starzl's team at the University of Pittsburgh which consisted of bone marrow biopsies taken from such patients which demonstrate genotypic chimerism in the bone marrow of liver transplant recipients.

Graft rejection

After a liver transplantation, there are three types of graft rejection that may occur. They include hyperacute rejection, acute rejection and chronic rejection. Hyperacute rejection is caused by preformed anti-donor antibodies. It is characterized by the binding of these antibodies to antigens on vascular endothelial cells. Complement activation is involved and the effect is usually profound. Hyperacute rejection happens within minutes to hours after the transplant procedure. Unlike hyperacute rejection, which is B cell mediated, acute rejection is mediated by T cells. It involves direct cytotoxicity and cytokine mediated pathways. Acute rejection is the most common and the primary target of immunosuppressive agents. Acute rejection is usually seen within days or weeks of the transplant. Chronic rejection is the presence of any sign and symptom of rejection after 1 year. The cause of chronic rejection is still unknown but an acute rejection is a strong predictor of chronic rejections. Liver rejection may happen anytime after the transplant. Lab findings of a liver rejection include abnormal AST, ALT, GGT and liver function values such as prothrombin time, ammonia level, bilirubin level, albumin concentration, and blood glucose. Physical findings include encephalopathy, jaundice, bruising and bleeding tendency. Other nonspecific presentation are malaise, anorexia, muscle ache, low fever, slight increase in white blood count and graft-site tenderness.


Prognosis is quite good, but those with certain illnesses may differ.[3] There is no exact model to predict survival rates; those with transplant have a 58% chance of surviving 15 years.[4] Failure of the new liver occurs in 10% to 15% of all cases. These percentages are contributed to by many complications. Early graft failure is probably due to preexisting disease of the donated organ. Others include technical flaws during surgery such as revascularization that may lead to a nonfunctioning graft.

Living donor transplantation

Volume rendering image created with computed tomography, which can be used to evaluate the volume of the liver of a potential donor.

Living donor liver transplantation (LDLT) has emerged in recent decades as a critical transplant. In LDLT, a piece of healthy liver is surgically removed from a living person and transplanted into a recipient, immediately after the recipient’s diseased liver has been entirely removed.

Historically, LDLT began as a means for parents of children with severe liver disease to donate a portion of their healthy liver to replace their child's entire damaged liver. The first report of successful LDLT was by Dr.

  • Liver disease, at Columbia University Department of Surgery
  • Liver Transplant India, by Dr. A.S. Soin
  • UNOS: United Network of Organ Sharing, U.S.
  • Organ Procurement and Transplantation Center, U.S.
  • American Liver Foundation
  • Vierling JM (2005). "Management of HBV Infection in Liver Transplantation Patients". Int J Med Sci 2 (1): 41–49.  
  • Schiano TD, Martin P (2006). "Management of HCV infection and liver transplantation". Int J Med Sci 3 (2): 79–83.  
  • Herrine SK, Navarro VJ (2006). "Antiviral therapy of HCV in the cirrhotic and transplant candidate". Int J Med Sci 3 (2): 75–8.  
  • Living Donors Online
  • Liver Transplantation Guide and Liver Transplant Surgery in India
  • History of pediatric liver transplantation
  • ABC Salutaris: Living Donor Liver Transplant
  • All You Need to Know about Adult Living Donor Liver Transplantation
  • Facts about Liver Transplantation
  • Children's Liver Disease Foundation
  • The Toronto Video Atlas of Liver, Pancreas and Transplant Surgery - Living Donor Right Lobe Liver Transplant video (recipient)
  • The Toronto Video Atlas of Liver, Pancreas and Transplant Surgery - Living Donor Right Lobe Liver Transplant video (donor)
  • The Toronto Video Atlas of Liver, Pancreas and Transplant Surgery - Living Donor Left Lobe Liver Transplant video (donor)
  • The Toronto Video Atlas of Liver, Pancreas and Transplant Surgery - Living Donor Left Lateral Lobe Liver Transplant video (donor)
  • The Toronto Video Atlas of Liver, Pancreas and Transplant Surgery - Living Donor Right Posterior Sectionectomy (Segments 6/7) Liver Transplant video (donor)

External links

  • Eghtesad B, Kadry Z, Fung J (2005). "Technical considerations in liver transplantation: what a hepatologist needs to know (and every surgeon should practice)". Liver Transpl 11 (8): 861–71.  
  • Adam R, McMaster P, O'Grady JG, Castaing D, Klempnauer JL, Jamieson N, Neuhaus P, Lerut J, Salizzoni M, Pollard S, Muhlbacher F, Rogiers X, Garcia Valdecasas JC, Berenguer J, Jaeck D, Moreno Gonzalez E (2003). "Evolution of liver transplantation in Europe: report of the European Liver Transplant Registry". Liver Transpl 9 (12): 1231–43.  
  • Reddy S, Zilvetti M, Brockmann J, McLaren A, Friend P (2004). "Liver transplantation from non-heart-beating donors: current status and future prospects". Liver Transpl 10 (10): 1223–32.  
  • Tuttle-Newhall JE, Collins BH, Desai DM, Kuo PC, Heneghan MA (2005). "The current status of living donor liver transplantation". Curr Probl Surg 42 (3): 144–83.  
  • Martinez OM, Rosen HR (2005). "Basic concepts in transplant immunology". Liver Transpl 11 (4): 370–81.  
  • Krahn LE, DiMartini A (2005). "Psychiatric and psychosocial aspects of liver transplantation". Liver Transpl 11 (10): 1157–68.  
  • Nadalin S, Malagò M, et al. (2007). "Current trends in live liver donation". Transpl. Int. 20 (4): 312–30.  
  • Vohra V (2006). "Liver transplantation in India". Int Anesthesiol Clin. 44 (4): 137–49.  
  • Strong RW (2006). "Living-donor liver transplantation: an overview". J Hepatobiliary Pancreat Surg. 13 (5): 370–7.  
  • Fan ST (2006). "Live donor liver transplantation in adults". Transplantation 82 (6): 723–32.  

Further reading

  • Guarrera, James V. (2015). Resuscitation" of marginal liver allografts for transplantation with machine perfusion technology""". Journal of Hepatology (Elsevier) 61 (2): 418–431.  
  • Haddad, E. M.; McAlister, V. C.; Renouf, E.; Malthaner, R.; Kjaer, M. S.; Gluud, L. L. (2006). "Cyclosporin versus tacrolimus for liver transplanted patients". Cochrane Database of systematic reviews 18 (4): CD005161.  
  • O'Grady, J. G.; Burroughs, A.; Hardy, P.; Elbourne, D.; Truesdale, A.; The UK and Ireland Liver Transplant Study Group (2002). "Tacrolimus versus microemulsified ciclosporin in liver transplantation: the TMC randomised controlled trial". Lancet 360 (9340): 1119–1125.  
  • Umeshita, K.; Fujiwara, K.; Kiyosawa, K.; Makuuchi, M.; Satomi, S.; Sugimachi, K.; Tanaka, K.; Monden, M.; Japanese Liver Transplantation Society (2003). "Operative morbidity of living liver donors in Japan". Lancet 362 (9385): 687–690.  


  1. ^ Haddad et al. 2006.
  2. ^ O'Grady et al. 2002.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Umeshita et al. 2003.
  7. ^ "First UK live liver donation to a stranger takes place.". BBC News. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Who can be a Donor? - University of Maryland Medical Center, Retrieved on 2010-01-20.
  10. ^ Liver Transplant, Retrieved on 2010-01-20.
  11. ^ hat I need to know about Liver Transplantation, National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), Retrieved on 2010-01-20.
  12. ^ Liver Donor: All you need to know, Retrieved on 2010-01-20.
  13. ^ Liver Transplant Program And Center for Liver Disease, University of Southern California Department of Surgery, Retrieved on 2010-01-20.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Graham & Guarrera 2015.
  17. ^ Kelland, Kate (15 March). "Liver kept 'alive' outside body in medical first". NBC News. 


The OrganOx Metra device is capable of maintaining the liver outside of the body for longer periods than traditional preservation of the organ on ice (which usually can only be done for about 12 hours- 20 at most- before it is damaged unfit for transplantation). The device, which was invented and tested (in two liver transplantations at the hospital) by a team from Oxford University and King's College Hospital, could be ready for use in 2014 after a pilot trial of 20 more transplantations. However this device has not shown that it is superior to cold static storage or hypothermic machine perfusion that has been used successfully at Columbia University and should be commercially available in 2015.[16][17]

Preservation of the liver before transplantation

The high incidence of liver transplants given to those with alcoholic cirrhosis has led to a recurring controversy regarding the eligibility of such patients for liver transplant. The controversy stems from the view of alcoholism as a self-inflicted disease and the perception that those with alcohol-induced damage are depriving other patients who could be considered more deserving.[14] It is an important part of the selection process to differentiate transplant candidates who suffer from alcoholism as opposed to those who were susceptible to moderate non-dependent alcohol use. The latter who retain control of alcohol use have a good prognosis following transplantation. Once a diagnosis of alcoholism has been established, however, it is necessary to assess the likelihood of future sobriety[15]

Controversy over eligibility for alcoholics

All donors are assessed medically to ensure that they can undergo the surgery. Blood type of the donor and recipient must be compatible but not always identical. Other things assessed prior to surgery include the anatomy of the donor liver. However, even with mild variations in blood vessels and bile duct, surgeons today are able to perform transplantation without problems. The most important criterion for a living liver donor is to be in excellent health.[13]

Living donor transplantation is a multidisciplinary approach. All living liver donors undergo medical evaluation. Every hospital which performs transplants has dedicated nurses that provide specific information about the procedure and answer questions that families may have. During the evaluation process, confidentiality is assured on the potential donor. Every effort is made to ensure that organ donation is not made by coercion from other family members. The transplant team provides both the donor and family thorough counseling and support which continues until full recovery is made.[12]

Screening for donors

  • Transplant can be done on an elective basis because the donor is readily available
  • There are fewer possibilities for complications and death than there would be while waiting for a cadaveric organ donor
  • Because of donor shortages, UNOS has placed limits on cadaveric organ allocation to foreigners who seek medical help in the USA. With the availability of living donor transplantation, this will now allow foreigners a new opportunity to seek medical care in the USA.

There are several advantages of living liver donor transplantation over cadaveric donor transplantation, including:


In children, living liver donor transplantations have become very accepted. The accessibility of adult parents who want to donate a piece of the liver for their children/infants has reduced the number of children who would have otherwise died waiting for a transplant. Having a parent as a donor also has made it a lot easier for children - because both patients are in the same hospital and can help boost each other's morale.[11]

Pediatric transplantation

Living donor surgery is done at a major center. Very few individuals require any blood transfusions during or after surgery. All potential donors should know there is a 0.5 to 1.0 percent chance of death. Other risks of donating a liver include bleeding, infection, painful incision, possibility of blood clots and a prolonged recovery.[10] The vast majority of donors enjoy complete and full recovery within 2–3 months.


  • Being in good health
  • Having a blood type that matches or is compatible with the recipient's, although some centres now perform blood group incompatible transplants with special immuno suppression protocols
  • Having a charitable desire of donation without financial motivation
  • Being between 18 and 60 years old
  • Being of similar or bigger size than the recipient
  • Before one becomes a living donor, the donor must undergo testing to ensure that the individual is physically fit. Sometimes CT scans or MRIs are done to image the liver. In most cases, the work up is done in 2–3 weeks.[9]

Any member of the family, parent, sibling, child, spouse or a volunteer can donate their liver. The criteria for a liver donation include:

CT scan performed for evaluation of a potential donor. The image shows an unusual variation of hepatic artery. The left hepatic artery supplies not only left lobe but also segment 8. The anatomy makes right lobe donation impossible. Even used as left lobe or lateral segment donation, it would be very technically challenging in anastomosing the small arteries.

Liver donor requirements

Living donors are faced with risks and/or complications after the surgery. Blood clots and biliary problems have the possibility of arising in the donor post-op, but these issues are remedied fairly easily. Although death is a risk that a living donor must be willing to accept prior to the surgery, the mortality rate of living donors in the United States is low. The LDLT donor's immune system does diminish as a result of the liver regenerating, so certain foods which would normally cause an upset stomach could cause serious illness.

In a typical adult recipient LDLT, 55 to 70% of the liver (the right lobe) is removed from a healthy living donor. The donor's liver will regenerate approaching 100% function within 4–6 weeks, and will almost reach full volumetric size with recapitulation of the normal structure soon thereafter. It may be possible to remove up to 70% of the liver from a healthy living donor without harm in most cases. The transplanted portion will reach full function and the appropriate size in the recipient as well, although it will take longer than for the donor.[8]


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