What to do when you are called in for a liver transplant

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When a liver becomes available, you must come to the hospital as soon as possible, no matter what time of the day or night you are called. The nurse will tell you where to go when you arrive at the hospital and whether you can eat or drink before your surgery. Write this down if you think you might forget it.

As soon as you get a call

Follow the nurse's instructions about eating or drinking. You will need to have an empty stomach for your surgery.

When you arrive at the hospital

When you arrive at the hospital, you will go where the transplant nurse has told you to go. Once you arrive there, you will have a number of tests and procedures.

Common tests and procedures

  • You will have blood work.
  • You will have other tests such as a chest x-ray or an ultrasound.

Talking with the doctors

The doctors will have some questions for you when you come into the hospital. Be ready to tell them:

  • the last time you remember being sick, especially with an infection or fever
  • all the medications or drugs you are taking, including those prescribed by your doctor, over-the-counter medications, herbal products and any street drugs
  • whether you are a smoker or you drink coffee every day – this is very important
  • when you last had something to eat or drink
  • if you have recently had any immunizations (vaccines or "shots").

This information will help your team to plan better for your anaesthetic (sleep medicine for your surgery), recovery and pain control.

While you are waiting for surgery, there can be long stretches with nothing to do. The liver transplant surgeon and hepatologist (liver specialist) will see you and your parents, explain the surgery once again and answer any final questions. You (or your parent) will also need to sign a consent form.

Remember, even though you may be waiting a while before your surgery, do not eat or drink anything unless your transplant team says you can.


Before your surgery, you will have an IV (intravenous) line placed in your arm or the back of your hand. Your healthcare team will use the IV to give you medications and fluid. The medications include an antibiotic (to prevent infection) and, when you are in the operating room, a general anaesthetic. If you already have a central line, you will get your medications and fluids through that and not need a peripheral IV.

Repeated calls for a transplant

Be aware that you may be called to the hospital more than once. This can happen if the deceased donor organ is found to be unsuitable or unsafe for you. You would then return home to continue to wait for a transplant.

Last updated: November 30th 2017