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Solid organ transplantation

Published on 07 February 2024

Liver transplantation

The Liver Transplantation Service is for adults over the age of 16 living with acute and chronic liver failure. They may have hepatocellular carcinomas, a type of primary liver cancer. Transplant is also for treating metabolic liver diseases, which are inherited or genetic conditions.

The service has a base at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

When do patients need liver transplantation?

Forming part of the digestive system, the liver is the largest solid organ in our bodies. It is vital to maintaining life, as it carries out over 500 essential activities. Many of these relate to the breakdown and absorption of food.

A liver transplant is a surgical procedure to replace a liver that isn't working. Healthy and functioning livers are taken from live or deceased donors.

The service carries out a range of procedures:

  • elective transplants – routine, yet usually carried out as emergency procedures due to availability of matching organs and urgency to transplant once a liver becomes available
  • fulminant transplants – an emergency surgery carried out on those with acute hepatic failure (this usually occurs when a person has no history of liver disease and no assessment has taken place, for example during a paracetamol overdose)
  • split liver transplant – transplant of part of a liver