Planning for your liver transplant surgery can be both exciting and unsettling. Our expert surgeons, nurse coordinators and other providers have successfully performed this life-saving procedure for more than 1,000 patients at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC).

Liver Transplant Surgery: What to Expect

A liver transplantation is a major operation. We have performed this procedure for hundreds of patients with excellent outcomes. We are here for each patient and patient family to answer questions and guide them through the transplant process.

Before Liver Transplant Surgery

Once we have approved you for a liver transplant, you stay on our waiting list until a suitable liver becomes available. Meanwhile, your pre-transplant coordinator will help you prepare for surgery:

  • While on the transplant waiting list, we encourage you to attend the monthly Transplant Patient Education Series to learn more about what to expect before, during and after transplantation. Learn more about what to expect before transplant.
  • Our transplant team will work with you and your primary care physician and/or referring doctor to monitor your health status, including blood work and random screening for substance abuse.
  • We will spend as much time as needed with you and your family to address questions and concerns and prepare you for the transplant.

The Day of Liver Transplant Surgery

You will need to be prepared to come to the hospital right away if we call to let you know that we have found a donor liver for you.

The liver transplantation surgery takes anywhere from 4 to 8 hours, plus additional preparation time. Here is what it involves:

  1. On the day of the operation, the liver recipient completes a final review in our Same Day Surgery unit. We will do some final tests to make sure you are ready. These might include a physical exam, blood work, X-rays, an EKG or other tests to make sure you do not have an infection or other issue that could cause problems with the transplant.
  2. In the operating room, we gently put you to sleep and prepare for surgery.
  3. Surgeons make an incision under your rib cage.
  4. The surgeons remove your diseased liver and place the donor liver.
  5. Surgeons close the incision, and you move to recovery. We carefully monitor you as you wake up and your new liver continues to function.
  6. The process is similar for patients who receive a living donor liver transplant.

After Liver Transplant Surgery

After your transplant, you and your caregivers need to learn to protect your new liver, recognize signs of rejection and live a healthy lifestyle to support your new organ.

Here is what you can expect after surgery:

  • Most liver transplant recipients go home about 8 to 14 days after surgery.
  • We will see you weekly or biweekly in the transplant clinic for the first 3 months after your surgery. At these visits, we will do outpatient testing, including blood work, to check for possible infection, organ rejection or recurrence of viral hepatitis.
  • For months 3 through 6 after transplant, we will see you once a month in the transplant hepatology clinic at UMMC in Baltimore.
  • We then see you less frequently – first every 3 months, then every 6 months and then every year.
  • We will refer you back to your primary care physician or gastroenterologist (physician specializing in the digestive system, including liver) for routine healthcare. We will coordinate with that physician as needed.
  • Your post-transplant coordinator is always available to answer transplant-related questions. Meet the transplant nurse coordinators.

Contact Us

To schedule a conversation with the liver team, please call 1-410-328-4030.

For Referring Physicians

To refer a patient or get more information, please call 1-800-373-4111. A physician service representative from Consultation and Referral Services will direct your call to the appropriate physician or department.

For more details, please visit our section for referring physicians.