FAQ’s

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Who needs a liver transplant?

At this time, transplantation is the only cure for liver failure because no device or machine reliably performs all of the functions of the liver. People who require liver transplants have acute liver failure but more typically chronic liver failure.

Acute liver failure occurs when a previously healthy liver suffers injury resulting in liver insufficiency. In chronic liver failure there has been repeated injury and repair to the liver, typically over many years. Chronic liver failure can be caused by viral hepatitis, autoimmune diseases, alcohol abuse, obesity, metabolic conditions, genetic liver diseases, liver cancer or other disease. This permanent and end stage of scarring is termed cirrhosis, and the liver can no longer repair itself. Medications can decrease the symptoms caused by the liver failure, but liver transplantation is the only permanent cure.

Can patients with liver cancer get a liver transplant?

Primary liver cancer, or hepatocellular carcinoma (also called hepatoma or HCC) is one of the major reasons for liver transplantation in the United States. Patients with HCC that is detected early enough for transplant are evaluated for liver transplantation similar to other patients, with additional careful evaluation of the extent of tumor. Transplant candidates with HCC are then placed on the liver transplant waiting list. Additional treatments are often needed while the patients wait on transplant.

A major advantage of transplantation for HCC is that it results in complete removal of the cirrhotic liver that could harbor additional HCC tumors or develop new tumors in the future. For this reason, the chance of cancer recurrence after treatment is lower in patients who receive a liver transplant compared to patients who receive surgical resection as the curative treatment for HCC.

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