States with higher transplant rates may have shorter wait times, but factors such as health, age, and blood type affect how long a person waits for a liver transplant.
The United States has a national waiting list for people requiring liver transplants. Some states may have shorter waiting lists than others.
Eligible people with a more urgent need for a liver transplant will be given top priority. Other factors such as age, location, blood type, and body size can also affect wait times.
This article examines the states with the shortest wait lists, factors affecting wait times, and how people can prepare while waiting.
A liver transplant is a surgical procedure for people with liver disease or injury.
A surgeon removes a malfunctioning liver and replaces it with a healthy liver from a donor. Liver transplants can be lifesaving procedures for people with liver failure.
Adult liver transplant candidates may receive a whole liver from a donor. Sometimes surgeons divide a liver between an adult and a child or smaller adult.
Less commonly, people may have a liver transplant from a living donor. This means that a living person will donate part of their healthy liver to someone who needs a liver transplant.
The liver that remains in the donor and the part of the liver in the person who receives the transplant return to their normal size after surgery.
Learn more about organ transplants.
The Scientific Register of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) has a database that people can use to search for transplant centers. The results show various statistics, including the number of transplants performed by the center in a year and survival rates.
According to the database, the centers with the fastest transplant rates from deceased donors between January 1 and December 31, 2021 are as follows.
Mayo Clinic Florida in Jacksonville has one of the highest liver transplant rates. This means they have a fast rate of matching deceased donors to candidates.
The center performed 149 transplants from deceased donors in 2021.
UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Fla., also topped the list with 158 transplants that year.
The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson ranks among the first tiers for the fastest transplant rates. They performed 48 deceased donor transplants over a year.
North Carolina (NC)
Duke University Hospital in Durham ranks very well for transplant rates at 102 but lower for waitlist survival rates.
The Mayo Clinic Arizona in Phoenix has performed 209 liver transplants from deceased donors in one year.
Other states currently showing faster transplant rates include:
- Illinois (IL)
- Missouri (MO)
- Ohio (OH)
There is a national waiting list for people who need a liver transplant. The average wait time for a liver transplant from a deceased donor can range from
A healthcare professional will contact people as soon as a liver match is available, and they should go to the donor site immediately to receive the transplant.
People with life-threatening liver disease or injury have
Candidates over the age of 12 will have a priority rating from a formula called the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD). This uses a range of test results to calculate a score:
- blood creatinine levels, which indicates kidney function
- bilirubin levels in the blood, which shows how well the liver is excreting bile
- international normalized ratio (INR), which shows how well the liver can make proteins involved in blood clotting
- blood sodium level
For children under 12, the Pediatric End-Stage Liver Disease (PELD) formula calculates a priority score. PELD uses the following factors to establish a score:
- albumin, a protein in the blood that may be low if the liver is not working properly
- whether the growth rate is normal for a person’s age, based on their sex, height, and weight
- age at registration
- blood group
- body size
- overall health
- availability of a matching liver
The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is a nonprofit organization working under contract with the federal government to administer the nation’s organ transplant system.
UNOS has some Strategies in place for liver transplants. People in urgent need of a liver transplant to prevent imminent death have status 1A and 1B.
Individuals with this status are eligible for any matching donor liver within 500 nautical miles of their registered hospital.
There are typically fewer than 50 applicants with 1A and 1B status at any one time nationwide.
For all others who do not have this status, the distribution of livers from deceased donors depends on:
- the donor’s age and cause of death
- MELD or PELD score
- distance between transplant hospital and donor hospital
Due to access challenges, Hawaii (HI), Puerto Rico (PR), and Alaska (AK) have different policies than the rest of the United States. Residents of Hawaii and Puerto Rico may be given local donor priority over applicants from other regions.
The cost of a liver transplant can depend on various factors such as:
- the hospital and its policies
- insurance cover
People may also have to account for non-medical expenses such as:
- transport to the donor site
- any child or pet care people may need while in surgery
- lost wages if an employer does not pay for time off for medical reasons
- food and lodging if the transplant center is not local
UNOS provides information and resources to help people cover transplant, transportation and related healthcare costs.
A donor can make himself available at any time. For this reason, a person should make sure they are ready for a liver transplant.
While waiting for a transplant, people can take the next steps to prepare:
- attend all scheduled appointments
- create a support system of healthcare professionals, family and friends
- stay as healthy as possible to help with recovery
- taking all medications prescribed by a doctor
- maintain a moderate weight
- avoid alcohol and drug abuse
- follow the exercise and dietary guidelines of a healthcare professional
- remain available by telephone so that a care team can make contact at any time
- stay organized and keep all medical information close at hand
- plan transportation to the donor site and have a bag packed and ready to go as soon as possible
- establish a financial plan to cover the costs
- consider joining a transplant support group
- learn more about the process and what to expect
- consider counseling or therapy to help cope with the emotional impact of the transplant process
People can wait between
- level of liver damage
- overall health
- body size
- blood group
People receiving a liver from a living donor will need a donor whose liver and body size are compatible.
- 86% at 1 year
- 78% at 3 years
- 72% at 5 years
- about 53% at 20 years
Liver transplant success and long-term survival rates may vary for each individual, depending on their circumstances and overall health.
People in need of a liver transplant can be put on a national waiting list. People in urgent need of a liver transplant are given top priority.
Florida may have the shortest waiting list because it has the highest transplant rates from deceased donors.
Wait times may depend on factors such as liver health, general health, age, location, blood type, and body size.