Liver Transplant Waiting List

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Please call the Transplant Institute at 210-567-5777 for more information.

Liver Transplant Waiting List

Plan for liver transplant surgery while you are on the waiting list with expert guidance and care from University Health.

How the Liver Transplant Waiting List Works

Placement on the national computerized waiting list regulates how deceased donor livers are distributed throughout the U.S. United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) manages the list. University Health Transplant Institute is part of the UNOS network and receives livers as they become available, usually from organ procurement organizations within Texas.

Your Place on the Waiting List

Your Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score is critical to determining your place on the liver transplant waiting list. The MELD score indicates how urgently you need a liver transplant within the next three months. Your MELD score will fall between 6 (lower need) and 40 (higher need). It’s calculated using three lab test results:

  • Bilirubin – Measures how effectively your liver excretes bile
  • INR (prothrombin time) – Gauges your liver’s ability to make proteins and platelets that help clot your blood
  • Creatinine – Assesses your kidney function (impaired kidney function is often associated with severe liver disease)

Count on your transplant team to report your MELD score in the UNOS system and update it.

Other Factors Affecting Liver Wait Time

Talk to your doctor about other things that might affect your wait time for a liver, including:

  • How long you’ve been on the waitlist
  • Availability of suitable livers
  • Blood type
  • Body size (height and weight)
  • Distance from the hospital where the donor is

Average Liver Wait Time

Waiting can be stressful for you and your caregivers because of the uncertainty. You could wait for several months or years. It’s impossible to predict how long you will have to wait. You may feel sick and still have a low MELD score.

Learn more about the liver transplant waitlist and liver matches on the UNOS website.

While You Wait

Use your waiting period to prepare for liver transplant surgery. Steps you can take include:

  • Attend a pre-transplant class at University Health (a schedule will be given to you)
  • Carry a pager or cell phone and give us as many contact numbers as possible
  • Continue to attend drug, alcohol and tobacco counseling, if necessary
  • Decide who will accompany you to the hospital for your transplant and how you will get there
  • Keep in touch with your transplant team
    • Notify us of any changes in telephone, address or insurance
    • Let us know if you’re going out of town and how to reach you
  • Keep your follow-up appointments with the transplant clinic
  • Pack a bag for the hospital or have the list ready of what to pack
  • Stay as healthy as you can
    • Got to yearly tests and consults
    • Get routine medical checkups with the transplant doctors
    • Have regular blood work done
    • Do not use alcohol or illegal drugs
    • See your referring doctors

Accommodations and Expenses

Plan for transplant-surgery-related expenses, such as:

  • Accommodations
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Medication

Contact your case manager or insurance company to see if you have coverage for some of these expenses.

Check the Visit San Antonio website for help finding a place to stay near University Hospital before and after your transplant.

Self-Care While Waiting

Work toward a good quality of life while waiting for a liver transplant. Continue to see your doctor or specialist as needed.

Alcohol and Drug Use

If you’re on the liver transplant waiting list and test positive for alcohol or illegal drugs, you’ll be placed on inactive status or removed from the liver transplant waiting list for six months. Refer to your Patient's Guide to Liver Transplant booklet for more information.


Get the nutrition you need to be as healthy as possible when you have your liver transplant. Rely on your transplant dietitian to assess your food habits, suggest strategies for symptom management and provide general nutritional advice. You’ll benefit from fewer complications, spend less time on the ventilator and have a shorter recovery time after surgery.


Make physical activity a priority. Good nutrition combined with exercise helps you maintain quality of life during the waiting period. Try your best to fit exercise into your daily routine. Light activities at home or walking are good ways to stay active.

Mental Health

Find activities you enjoy: Read, listen to music, volunteer and spend time with friends and family. Relieve stress by discussing issues with your family, transplant team, clergy, social worker or counselor. Join a support group to connect with other patients.

Emergency Care

Call 911 if you have a life-threatening emergency while waiting for a transplant. Do not try to drive to University Health. Ask the emergency room doctors to consult with your University Health transplant team.

Pre-Transplant Medications

You will take various medications before your transplant to control your liver disease symptoms. Refer to your Patient's Guide to Liver Transplant booklet for more information about pre-transplant medications.

  1. Eric Lawitz, MD
    Eric Lawitz, MD
    Gastroenterology Hepatology Transplant
  2. Carmen Landaverde, MD
    Carmen Landaverde, MD
    Gastroenterology Hepatology Transplant
  3. Fred Poordad, MD
    Fred Poordad, MD
    Gastroenterology Hepatology Transplant
  4. Sandeep Patel, DO
    Sandeep Patel, DO
  5. Fabian Rodas Ochoa, MD
    Fabian Rodas Ochoa, MD
    Gastroenterology Hepatology Transplant
  6. Hari Sayana, MD
    Hari Sayana, MD
    Internal Medicine
  7. Eugenia Tsai, MD
    Eugenia Tsai, MD
    Gastroenterology Hepatology Transplant

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What to Pack

Pack a small suitcase or bag to take to the hospital with you. You’ll need:

  • Copy of your health care directive or living will
  • Essential phone numbers of family and friends
  • List of your conditions or past surgeries
  • List of medications you currently take
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Sleepwear, shoes/slippers, robe

    Do not bring money, credit cards, jewelry or other valuables. We do not allow plants, pets and children under 14 years of age.