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Liver Transplant

Advanced Liver Transplant Care for Adults and Children

Liver Transplant UChicago Medicine
  • 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, and our team continues to be a leader in living donation for both children and adults. We were also the first to perform a successful split liver cadaver transplant.
  • Versatility. With some of the most experienced in transplant surgeons in the United States, our team performs all types of liver transplantation, including, pediatric liver transplants.
  • Complexity. We are a world leader in multiple organ transplant procedures. Our liver experts have teamed up with other University of Chicago Medicine specialists to successfully perform complex transplants, such as 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 research, including innovative liver cancer treatment protocols, improved transplant surgery techniques, and more.

A Surgical Team Beyond Compare

University of Chicago Medicine transplantation surgeons are among the best in the world. They have conducted thousands of procedures, 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 complications. Patients enter our operating rooms knowing that they will receive expert care.

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

From liver disease diagnosis to liver failure treatment, our liver specialists have extensive experience treating all types of liver conditions, 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 Medicine liver team participates in many studies to discover new treatment modalities, and patients may benefit from experimental medicines that are not widely available elsewhere.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease-related cirrhosis and liver failure have become leading causes of liver transplant, and the numbers are only predicted to increase. We are the only place in Chicago with a team approach to managing fatty liver disease. Learn about our Metabolic & Fatty Liver Disease Clinic.

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 liver living donation, which have helped more patients get needed treatment 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 conditions. Our 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 transplant operations that cannot be performed at other medical centers.

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

We also have a comprehensive program for potential transplant patients with chronic liver disease who have 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 young adult. 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 liver 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. Our transplant specialists have written several publications about the ethics of living liver donation in adults, helping define when it 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 liver donors.

Easing the Organ Shortage

University of Chicago Medicine 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.

We are also advancing hepatitis C treatment for transplant patients. Organs from donors with hepatitis C used to be automatically rejected, but breakthrough antiviral medications have essentially cured the disease, creating a new source of hope for patients in need of organ transplants.

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 patients, too.

One-on-One Attention

All of our patients are supported by a pre-transplant coordinator, who is a specially-trained nurse, before their transplant surgery. This nurse will care for you and your family until your transplant. After your surgery, 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: