Waiting list

Most people who need a liver transplant are placed on a waiting list until a suitable liver becomes available.

This is because there are more people who need a transplant than there are donor livers.

If you're well enough, you stay at home while you're on the waiting list. Be prepared to get a call at any time saying that a liver is available and asking you to come into the liver transplant unit.

Waiting times

How long you'll wait for a liver can vary quite a lot. If you need an emergency transplant, you may only have to wait a few days.

The average waiting time for a liver transplant in the UK is:

It may be possible to have a transplant sooner if a relative or friend is willing and able to do a living donation (where part of their liver is removed and given to you).

What to do while on the list

While you're on the waiting list, it's important to:

Your transplant team will advise you about whether you can drink any alcohol while on the waiting list. Ask your doctor if you can drive, as some liver problems can affect your ability to drive.

Tell the transplant unit if:

Coping with being on the list

Living with a serious liver condition can be strenuous enough, and the added anxiety of waiting for a liver to become available can make the situation even more difficult.

This can have an effect on both your physical and mental health.

Contact a GP or the transplant unit for advice if you're struggling to cope emotionally with the demands of waiting for a liver transplant.

You may also find it useful to talk to people in the same situation. There's a list of support groups on the British Liver Trust website. You can also join the HealthUnlocked liver disease community.

What to do when you get the call

When you're contacted:

Sometimes the call may be a false alarm, as tests may later find the liver is not suitable for transplant. You'll be told as early as possible if this is the case.

If the liver is suitable, you'll have some tests at the transplant unit to check you're well enough for surgery. You'll then be given general anaesthetic and taken into the operating room.

Page last reviewed: 29 January 2021
Next review due: 29 January 2024