A liver transplant is a lifesaving operation for liver failure. The Acibadem Liver Transplant Center is a reference center for complex cases in Turkey and abroad.
Liver transplantation is the only permanent cure for patients with end-stage liver disease. A healthy liver is responsible for critical functions, including metabolism, detoxification, immune function, and coagulation. A person cannot live without a liver, and its functions cannot be replaced by a machine. Therefore, patients with chronic liver failure and some acute liver diseases need the transplantation of a healthy organ. During liver transplant surgery, the diseased liver is removed from the body and replaced with a healthy organ from a donor. The operation involves the reconnection of the blood vessels and bile duct to allow the new organ to work properly. The method we use at Acibadem is Orthotopic Liver Transplant is regarded as the gold standard worldwide.
Liver transplantation is one of the most complicated interventions in surgery. It requires high-end expertise throughout the process. Competent patient evaluation, surgery, intensive care, and follow-up are equally important for successful outcomes.
Worldwide, the number of people awaiting a liver transplant exceeds the number of donated organs from deceased donors. Therefore, these patients are placed on waiting lists at a national or regional level. Every state determines strict selection criteria for matching and allocation of available organs. Most countries only allow their citizens to register on their waiting lists. The waiting time varies between countries. However, most patients wait for years, and some of them may never receive a liver from a deceased donor. In Turkey, only Turkish citizens can be registered on waiting lists. International patients can apply for living donor transplants if they have a donor willing to donate.
The liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself. It can continue functioning even if 70% of its tissue is removed. This makes living-donor liver transplants possible. This type of transplant can be an alternative to long waiting lists for some patients. After surgery, the parts of the liver in the donor and recipient will grow back and provide normal liver function for each person.
The main advantage of a living-donor liver transplant is the short waiting time. Recipients do not need to wait for a suitable deceased donor while their health deteriorates further. In addition, the donor can be examined carefully and prepared for surgery. Living donation provides better outcomes than donations from deceased donors, since the donor and the time of surgery are carefully selected.
A living-donor liver transplant is a complex and technically demanding surgery, posing risks for both the donor and recipient. Therefore, extensive preoperative evaluation and a highly experienced medical team are crucial for a successful outcome.
Liver transplants in children are quite different from those in adults. First, the reason for the transplant is different for children. In adults, liver failure is often caused by hepatitis, alcoholic steatohepatitis, or fatty liver disease. In contrast, children usually need a liver transplant due to congenital anomalies, and biliary atresia is the most common cause. Second, narrow vessels and bile ducts, and the small space for the liver present additional challenges for the surgeon.
At Acibadem, we routinely perform liver transplants for pediatric patients and infants, with excellent outcomes. Some of our patients are complex cases that have been rejected as not being suitable for liver transplantation by other centers. We also successfully perform combined liver–kidney transplants for children with metabolic diseases.
To be considered for a living-donor liver transplant, both the donor and recipient should meet certain criteria. At Acibadem Liver Transplant Center, our selection criteria for the donor include age 18–55 years, good overall health, normal liver function, and a matching blood type. The donor should be a close relative or a person who agrees to donate gratuitously and is approved by our ethics committee. Possible recipients are patients with irreversible end-stage liver disease whose general health allows them to undergo the operation. Both the donor and recipient will undergo an extensive evaluation process, which may include various consultations and blood tests, radiologic imaging tests, a liver biopsy, imaging tests for bile ducts, and genetic tests.
For international patients coming to Acibadem, the liver transplant process usually starts with our doctors providing detailed information about organ transplantation, the legal requirements in Turkey, medical expectations for the procedure, its effects on quality of life, the post-transplant process, and possible complications. Patients are asked to provide their medical documents, surgical reports, and test results. The process continues with detailed examinations and tests for the donor and recipient to assess their eligibility. If all medical and non-medical requirements are met, the surgery is scheduled within a short time frame.
Our doctors perform the surgery simultaneously for the donor and recipient, and a portion of the donor’s liver is transplanted into the recipient. After the operation, both patients must stay in the Intensive Care Unit for one day. If everything goes smoothly, the donor is usually discharged 4–5 days after the surgery. The standard hospitalization period for the recipients is 12–15 days, but this may vary according to their condition. Transplant recipients must usually stay in Turkey 2–4 weeks after discharge for control examinations.
Success rates for liver transplants are constantly improving. Developments in surgical techniques, organ preservation, and immunosuppression contribute to better outcomes. However, success rates depend strongly on the indication for liver transplantation and the experience of the medical team. At Acibadem Liver Transplant Center, our one-year survival rate is 92%, and our five-year survival rate is 89%. These numbers include complex cases, pediatric liver transplants (including children below one year of age), and combined transplant surgeries.
After a liver transplant, both the living donor and recipient should follow some rules. They can resume their normal activities after a recovery period, according to their doctors’ advice. The living donor’s liver usually recovers within three months, while the recipient’s liver must be monitored closely during the first year. The recipient should strictly follow the prescribed regimen for taking their immunosuppressive medications to avoid rejection of the new liver. The recipients should also be careful about their diets and must exercise regularly.
At Acibadem Liver Transplant Center, we have some of the best transplant physicians in Turkey and worldwide. Our patients benefit from: