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Liver Transplant

Advanced Liver Transplant Care for Adults and Children

  • Experience. The University of Chicago's liver transplant program is the oldest in the Midwest and the fourth oldest in the nation. Collectively, our transplant surgeons and hepatologists are among the most experienced professionals in the region. To date, the University of Chicago Medicine has performed more than 1,650 liver transplants.
  • Innovation. The University of Chicago Medicine was the first in the nation to perform a living donor liver transplant, as well as the first to perform a successful split liver cadaver transplant.
  • Versatility. Our liver transplant surgeons perform all types of liver transplantation, from whole and split cadaver transplants to living donor transplants. This same team is one of the most experienced in the United States at performing living donor liver transplants for both children and adults. Our team includes experts in performing pediatric liver transplants for children of all ages.
  • Complexity. We are a world leader in complex multiple organ transplant procedures. Our liver transplant experts have teamed up with other University of Chicago specialists to successfully perform heart-liver and heart-liver-kidney transplants. We have done more combined heart-liver-kidney transplants than any other medical center in the nation.
  • Research. University of Chicago liver specialists and scientists have made several important contributions to the field -- from pioneering anti-rejection therapy to avoid the use of steroids in treating transplant rejection, to laying the groundwork for the ethics of living donor liver transplantation. Our team is active in several areas of liver research, including innovative liver cancer treatment protocols, improved transplant surgical techniques, and more.

A Surgical Team Beyond Compare

First in the nation to perform a living-donor liver transplant

University of Chicago surgeons are among the best transplant surgeons in the world. They have conducted thousands of transplant surgeries, earning national and international recognition for their expertise and research.

Our entire operating room staff is dedicated to perfecting approaches that ensure successful transplants and reduce surgical complications. Transplant patients enter our operating rooms knowing that they are in the care of experts.

The surgical team works side-by side with:

  • Hepatologists (liver specialists)
  • Specially trained transplant nurses
  • A transplant pharmacist
  • Social worker
  • Financial counselor
  • Dietitian

Top Liver Specialists

Here, our liver specialists have extensive experience treating all types of liver problems, including unusual or complex diseases. We are able to bring liver disease -- even rare and difficult problems -- under control, often without surgery. The University of Chicago liver team participates in many studies to discover new treatment modalities, and patients may benefit from experimental medicines that are not widely available elsewhere.

Unique Treatment Approaches

We are continually identifying new ways to help more patients. Because our physicians are also researchers, they are aware of the latest advances in liver care. In some cases, they were instrumental in these discoveries. For example, our transplant surgeons pioneered several new techniques, including living donor liver transplants, which have helped more patients get needed liver transplants in a timely manner.

Our staff was also instrumental in testing a liver assist device that allows patients with acute liver failure to survive long enough to receive a liver transplant, or perhaps even recover without a transplant.

Care for Complex Problems

The expert surgeons and physicians at the University of Chicago Medicine have the experience and skill to provide care for patients with complex medical problems. Our liver transplant surgeons operate on the liver daily. This gives them a familiarity with the anatomy of the liver unsurpassed by most other surgeons. They can perform complex liver operations that cannot be performed in many other medical centers.

Alyssa Smith In 1989, Alyssa Smith was the world's first recipient of a living-donor liver transplant. Catch up with Alyssa.

We also have a comprehensive program for potential transplant patients who have experienced problems with alcohol and/or drugs. Our addiction specialists and social workers can provide the individualized treatment these patients need to abstain from substance abuse.

Living Donor Liver Transplants

In 1989, the University of Chicago Medicine performed the first successful living-donor liver transplant in the nation. The recipient is now a healthy college student. Since then, we have performed more than 150 successful living donor liver surgeries, mostly to help young children in need of a liver. Historically, approximately 10 percent of liver transplants performed at our medical center are done using living donor grafts.

Living donor liver transplantation offers many additional benefits to the recipient, including avoidance of a long wait on the transplant list, the convenience of a scheduled surgery, and fewer complications in general. It is quite common for parents or siblings to donate, but a blood relation is not required.

Before being allowed to donate, potential donors consult with numerous medical experts and must undergo a thorough medical exam. Our primary concern is always the safety of the donor and the transplant recipient. Our transplant specialists have written several publications about the ethics of living donor liver transplants in adults, helping define when living donation is medically and ethically appropriate. We have a dedicated, professional Living Donor Advocate Team consisting of clinicians who are responsible for protecting the rights and best interests of donors.

Easing the Organ Shortage

University of Chicago surgeons have pioneered several surgical approaches that have helped increase the number of deceased donor livers available for transplantation. We were the first hospital in the United States to perform successful segmental and split liver transplants. Both of these surgeries take advantage of the fact that a portion of the liver will grow after being transplanted, taking on the workload of a full-size liver.

In a segmental transplant, a portion of a donor liver is implanted in the recipient. In a split liver transplant, one donor liver is divided and implanted in two recipients. These procedures are primarily used in children, but they can help adult transplant patients, too.

One-on-One Attention

All of our liver transplant patients are followed by a pre-transplant coordinator, who is a specially-trained nurse, before their transplant. This nurse will care for you and your family until your transplant. After your transplant, you will meet other specially trained nurses--post-transplant coordinators. You will always have someone to call or turn to if you have problems or concerns.

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  • Liver cirrhosis from various causes
  • Acute liver failure
  • Liver cancer and other tumors
  • Biliary diseases
  • Genetic liver diseases

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For questions about living donor liver transplantation, please contact:

For all other liver transplant questions, please contact: