Liver Transplant FAQ

Explore the Transplant Journey   Liver Transplant Outcomes

The Piedmont Transplant team understands you and your family have questions and concerns. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about liver transplant surgery. Contact your coordinator for more information.

What is a MELD score?

Your MELD (Model for End Stage Liver Disease) score is obtained from measuring four factors in your blood:

  • sodium (an electrolyte that can be low in points with liver disease)
  • bilirubin (how the liver gets rid of bile)
  • prothombin time (ability to make blood clotting factors)
  • creatinine (kidney function)

MELD scores range from 6 (less ill) to 40 (extremely ill).

How frequently will my labs be drawn to update my MELD?

If your MELD is 18 or lower, you will need to have blood drawn every 3 months. If your MELD is between 19 and 24, you will need to have blood drawn every 30 days. If your MELD is 25 or greater, you will need to have blood drawn every seven days.

Can I talk with other patients, or those waiting for a transplant?

Yes. In fact, we encourage your participation in available support groups. We also offer a mentorship pairing through a foundation. Please talk to your social worker if interested.

How long will I be in the hospital after my transplant?

It depends on several factors, including how sick you were before the transplant and whether you had complications from the surgery. The average stay is between one to two weeks. Patients may be discharged as soon as six or seven days if they recover quickly. Some stay several weeks (or even longer) if they are very ill and have post-surgical problems.

Will I be allowed to have visitors in the hospital?

Yes. Visits in the ICU are limited, but once you're moved to the Transplant Unit, you can have visitors around the clock. However, we ask that people who have colds or other illnesses wait to visit until they are well again. Also, visitors less than 12 years old are not allowed in the ICU. The visitor restrictions vary due to limiting factors, such as the pandemic.

How long before I can drive after surgery?

Usually you can drive four to six weeks after surgery. The surgeon will clear you to drive during one of your postoperative clinic visits. We don't want you to drive while you are on pain medication. We want to make sure that you are both alert and physically able to react quickly to protect both yourself and other motorists and pedestrians if needed.

How long will I be out of work after surgery?

It depends on how quickly you recover at home. We advise people to plan on being out of work three to six months after the transplant. Some people are able to go back sooner; some, unfortunately, will not be able to return to work. Our goal is for every patient to return to a productive professional and personal life.

How frequently must I have my blood drawn after surgery?

In the beginning, you must have your blood drawn three times a week. As you progress, this will be gradually reduced. However, you will need to have blood drawn routinely for the rest of your life.

Will I be on medicine forever?

Some of your medications will be discontinued over time, but you will need to take anti-rejection medication for the rest of your life. This is why you will need to maintain your insurance benefits or have arranged a way to pay for your post transplant medications. If you do not take your anti-rejection medication, you will reject your liver. Without a functioning liver, you could die.

After my transplant, will I be allowed to eat protein?

Yes, eating protein will help you maintain as much muscle mass as possible and keep you nourished.

How much salt can I have each day?

Salt should be limited to 2,000 milligrams or 2 grams per day.

Can I fundraise to help cover the cost of my medications?

The social workers on the transplant team can provide information about how to start fundraising. The Georgia Transplant Foundation (GTF) also conducts fundraising seminars several times a year to explain this process. For many residents of Georgia, GTF can provide matching funds (up to $10,000) for listed patients who are fundraising.

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