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Who Qualifies for a Liver Transplant? Understanding the Criteria

18 Mar 2024

Are you or someone close to you contemplating a liver transplant? Do you find yourself wondering if you qualify for such an extensive procedure? Understanding the eligibility for a liver transplant surgery can be daunting, to say the least. Yet, it is crucial information to have at your fingertips, especially if you’re contending with severe liver conditions.  

A liver transplant is considered when the liver no longer functions adequately. Although, not everyone with a liver condition requires a transplant. This life-saving surgery involves replacing a diseased or failing liver with a healthy one, often from a healthy donor.  

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of this procedure. However, this blog aims to shed light on the essential criteria that doctors consider when evaluating potential candidates for this significant surgical intervention. We will first identify who might genuinely need this surgery. From there, we will further dissect the prerequisites for liver transplant eligibility criteria and top it off with some insights into the cost of a liver transplant in India. 

Liver Transplant: A Life-Saving Procedure 

A liver transplant is a surgical procedure of replacing a failing liver with a healthy one from a donor. This is a life-saving procedure, but not everyone with liver challenges can get onto the transplant list. There are specific criteria to determine eligibility.  

Who is a Suitable Candidate for a Liver Transplant Surgery 

A liver transplant is not for everyone. It is an invasive procedure that requires thorough medical evaluation. Patients with significant heart or lung disease may not meet the liver transplant eligibility criteria due to the high risk associated with surgery. Moreover, patients suffering from active alcohol or substance abuse are often required to abstain for six months before they can be considered for a transplant. 

Alternatively, patients with chronic diseases like cirrhosis, alcoholic liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or acute illnesses like fulminant hepatic failure often top the list for this surgery. Your team of doctors will carefully examine your case and only as a last resort will they recommend a liver transplant surgery

Decoding the MELD Score 

Assessing eligibility for a liver transplant is not left to chance; the timing of a transplant is crucial. Wait too long, and the damage could become irreversible; do it too early, and you could expose the patient to unnecessary risk. Doctors, therefore, use a Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score to determine the severity of a patient’s condition and their place on the transplant waiting list. The MELD score ranges from 6 (less severe) to 40 (gravely ill), with higher scores indicating more urgency for the transplant.  

However, children under 12 years are evaluated differently using the Pediatric End-stage Liver Disease (PELD) score. The PELD score considers factors like growth failure and albumin levels along with bilirubin and INR levels. 

Understanding the Donor Process

doctors and liver

Living donor transplants are gaining recognition in India. In this process, a healthy individual donates part of their liver to the patient. This is possible because the liver has the unique ability to regenerate itself.

However, it is not as simple as it may sound. The donor needs to be in excellent health, with a compatible blood type and body size. They also need to undergo comprehensive medical and psychological evaluations before they can donate.

On the contrary, the waiting period for a deceased donor liver transplant in India can vary significantly. The waiting time is generally unpredictable. It could range from less than 30 days to more than 5 years, and it is influenced by factors such as the patient’s location, blood type, body size, overall health, and the availability of a matching liver  

The Cost Factor 

The cost for liver transplant can be overwhelming for many patients and their families. It varies significantly depending on factors such as location of the hospital, surgeon’s fee, post-operative care and duration of stay in the intensive care unit.  

In India, the average cost for a liver transplant can range from INR 10 lakhs to INR 25 lakhs. However, government hospitals and certain insurance policies might help ease this financial burden. 

Preparing For The Surgery 

Once a patient is deemed eligible for a liver transplant, preparations for the surgery begin right away. This involves improving the patient’s overall health through diet and exercise, quitting harmful habits like smoking or drinking and constant monitoring by doctors. It is also crucial to establish a strong support system among family members during this challenging time. 

In conclusion, understanding your eligibility for a liver transplant isn’t a walk in the park, but it’s not shrouded in mystery either. It’s about teaming up with your doctor, delving into the depth of your medical past and present and evaluating how your body might fare with a new liver. It’s an honest conversation about your health, your habits and your resilience. If you or a loved one is suggested for a liver transplant, make sure to ask your doctor all the questions you may have about the procedure, its risks, recovery and cost.  

At TatvaCare, we understand how challenging medical journeys can be. That’s why we’re here with comprehensive medical data and supportive healthcare services tailored to suit your needs. Reach out to us and make the most of our expertise. Live better with TatvaCare.

FAQs

Q. Why do people require a liver transplant?

A: Individuals might require a liver transplant due to severe liver damage. This can result from conditions like chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis or genetic diseases. In these cases, a transplant is often the best chance of survival, as the failing liver can no longer perform vital functions such as detoxifying harmful substances in the body or producing proteins for blood clotting.

Q. Can someone with cancer receive a liver transplant?

A: Yes, individuals with certain types of liver cancer might be considered for a transplant. However, it’s critical that the cancer is confined to the liver and hasn’t spread. The final decision will be made by a team of medical professionals, taking into consideration various factors such as the patient’s overall health, age and the availability of donor organs.

Q. How is the eligibility for a liver transplant determined?

A: The eligibility for a liver transplant is assessed through an extensive evaluation process. This includes medical tests like blood tests, imaging studies and often a psychological evaluation. The purpose is to ensure that the person is physically capable of surviving surgery and emotionally prepared for the challenges of recovery and life post-transplant.

Q. Who cannot receive a liver transplant?

A: Certain conditions might prohibit an individual from receiving a liver transplant. These include active alcohol or drug abuse, advanced heart or lung disease, active infections or severe obesity. Moreover, if a person doesn’t follow medical advice or lacks a reliable support system, they may not be deemed suitable for this life-changing procedure.

About the Author

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Krunal Chaudhari
MBBS, MD