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Who can have a transplant

Find out about who can have a liver transplant and assesment information. 

Who will benefit from a liver transplant

A transplant may be suitable for you if you have:  

  • a single tumour no more than 5cm across
  • a single tumour 5 to 7cm across and has not grown for at least 6 months  
  • 5 small tumours, each one no larger than 3cm across 

To have a liver transplant you need a donor that is a close match to your own. It’s possible that you will have to wait a long time.  

A liver transplant is not useful if the cancer has spread out of the liver, because there will be cancer cells left behind in the body after the operation. So the operation would not get rid of all the cancer.

You may not be able to have a liver transplant if you have very severe liver cirrhosis. Your specialists will have to judge whether you would be well enough to get through the operation and recovery period. If not, a transplant may not be in your best interests because there would be too big a risk of not surviving the operation.

Assessment for a liver transplant

Before you can have a transplant you have an assessment to check how well you liver is working and whether a transplant is the best treatment for you. You usually have these as an outpatient but may need a short stay in hospital for this.

You'll have detailed blood tests called liver function tests as well as a number of other tests.

Having a liver transplant involves a lot of careful preparation from a number of different health care workers. You'll meet these people during the assessment. Take this time to get to know them and ask as many questions as you want to. That is what they are there for and it is best that you go into the operation feeling well prepared.

You'll need to have several more tests before your surgery, if you and your doctor decide to go ahead with the liver transplant. This may mean going into hospital a few days before your operation.

Last reviewed: 
02 Mar 2015
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma: ESMO–ESDO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up
    C. Verslype, O. Rosmorduc, P. Rougier,
    Ann Oncol (2012) 23 (suppl 7)

  • EASL-EORTC clinical practice guidelines: management of hepatocellular carcinoma
    European Association For The Study Of The Liver; European Organisation For Research And Treatment Of Cancer
    April 2012Volume 56, Issue 4, Pages 908–943

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