Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

About liver transplantation

What is a liver transplant?

A liver transplant is a surgical procedure performed to replace a diseased liver with a healthy liver from another person. The liver may come from a deceased organ donor or from a living donor. Family members or individuals who are unrelated but make a good match may be able to donate a portion of their liver. This type of transplant is called a living transplant. Individuals who donate a portion of their liver can live healthy lives with the remaining liver.

An entire liver may be transplanted or just a section. Because the liver is the only organ in the body able to regenerate, a transplanted portion of a liver can rebuild to normal capacity within weeks.
Why is a liver transplant recommended?

A liver transplant is recommended for individuals who have serious liver dysfunction and will not be able to live without having the liver replaced. The most common liver disease for which transplants are done is cirrhosis. Other diseases may include:

  • Acute hepatic necrosis
  • Biliary atresia 
  • Metabolic disease 
  • Liver cancers 
  • Autoimmune hepatitis

How many individuals in the U.S. need liver transplants?

Visit the United Network for Organ Sharing Web site for statistics of patients awaiting a liver transplant and the number of patients who underwent a transplant this year.