Liver transplant surgery program in Largo, Florida

The Transplant Institute of Florida at Largo Medical Center serves patients experiencing liver failure in the Largo community and beyond.

With highly specialized liver transplant services and the region's only hepatologist, we stand out as a leader in providing excellent liver care.

To learn more about the Transplant Institute of Florida, please call (727) 588-5728.

Causes of liver disease

The liver, one of the body's largest organs, supports nearly every organ in the body. It plays a key role in digestion, regulating metabolism and detoxifying the body of harmful substances.

Because of its importance to some of the most vital bodily processes, there is only one known way to compensate for the loss of a liver. This is the transplantation of a healthy one, which most often comes from a deceased donor.

The demand for available healthy livers far outweighs the supply. Because of this, liver transplants are reserved for patients with end-stage, irreversible liver failure who have exhausted all other treatment options. Occasionally, transplantation is also an option for some patients with liver cancer.

Nationally, about 6,000 liver transplants are performed each year.

Causes of liver failure

When a liver is damaged slowly over time, the condition is known as chronic liver disease. When it occurs rapidly, often in a matter of weeks, it's known as acute liver failure.

The causes of liver failure include:

  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin (A1AT) deficiency affecting the liver: incorrect production of A1AT
  • End stages of cirrhosis: liver cells are replaced by scar tissue, causing a loss of liver function, often caused by alcoholism and Hepatitis B and C.
  • End stages of hemochromatosis: excess iron accumulation in the body
  • Fulminant hepatic failure: acute liver failure without any history of liver disease
  • Metabolic disorders: any metabolic disorder leading to liver disease and additional complications
  • Primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma): interferes with normal liver function

Liver transplant evaluation process

At the Transplant Institute of Florida, we want to make sure our transplant services will be best for you. We perform an evaluation process to determine if you are an eligible candidate for transplantation, according to certain medical and psychological criteria.

In this evaluation process, you will:

  • Pre-transplant education session: This mandatory session provides education about all aspects of liver transplantation and answers any questions you may have
  • Transplant hepatologist consultation: The hepatologist will help determine if you are a likely transplant candidate.
  • Transplant coordinator assignment: Your transplant coordinator will schedule and organize all testing and visits with your transplant team.
  • Transplant surgeon consultation: The surgeon walks you through the entire evaluation process. This is a discussion that requires the input and understanding of both you and your family. Your comfort throughout the process is of the utmost importance. She or he will:
    • discuss possible risks and complications
    • describe the transplant procedure itself
    • explain how your donor organ will be found and obtained
    • describe the recovery/rehab stage and the logistics of your care in the weeks and months ahead
  • Anesthesia exam: The anesthesiologist will evaluate the results of your previous heart and lung function tests and discuss any possible concerns.
  • Social services consultation: A social worker will assess your support network, living conditions and financial status to provide any additional resources.
  • Nutrition assessment: Assessing your current nutritional diet will guide the creation of a practical dietary plan, which fits your lifestyle and enhances your chances of a successful outcome.

Pre-transplant tests needed for liver transplant surgery

Pre-transplant testing will likely include:

  • Abdomen computed tomography(CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Cardiac stress test
  • Complete blood work
  • Echocardiogram (heart exam done by ultrasound)
  • Electrocardiogram (measures your heart's electrical activity)
  • Endoscopy (uses small tube with a tiny video camera to examines internal organs)
  • Mammogram
  • Ultrasound exam of liver and other abdominal organs and blood vessels
  • Various X-rays

Liver transplant final review

A committee of all members of the patient's transplant team will meet to review all consultation reports and test results. Once these have been reviewed, this committee will make a final decision about the your fitness for transplant surgery.

Once the review committee and your insurance company approves you for transplant surgery, you will be added to the national organ donation waiting list.

Liver transplant surgery

Once a donor liver has been identified for you, your transplant coordinator will provide all instructions for how to proceed.

The liver transplantation surgery will take about two to four hours to complete.

Liver transplant follow-up care

Your follow-up care is crucial to the success of your liver transplant. The Transplant Institute of Florida offers a post liver transplant clinic at varying times Monday through Friday. The Transplant Institute will provide your physician with regular updates and reports on your progress.

  • Clinic visits—Initially, you will be required to attend clinic visits three times per week. Each visit lasts approximately four hours and includes lab work and visits with physicians/nurse practitioners and transplant coordinators. If, after one month, everything is stable, the frequency of the visits will decrease to twice per week, then eventually once per week. Gradually, the number of clinic visits will decrease until you are seen on a yearly basis.
  • Medications—All transplant recipients are required to take anti-rejection medication for as long as they have the transplant. Without these medications, the body recognizes the liver as something foreign and works to reject it. You will receive personal instructions on how to take your medications before you are discharged from the hospital. The importance of taking medications properly after transplant will be reinforced continually by the transplant team.
  • Financial responsibilities—The anti-rejection medications needed after transplant can be expensive, depending on your insurance coverage. It is important to plan for these added expenses, as well as the expense of frequent trips to the transplant clinic and uncompensated time off work. Our financial coordinators and social workers will work with you to create a plan before the actual transplant takes place. If you need assistance after the transplant, they are also available to help you follow through with your plan.