Long-Term Success of a Liver Transplant

For more than 40 years, Montefiore's physicians have performed successful liver transplants worldwide. Our transplant team of experienced surgeons uses the most advanced techniques and the latest equipment for the highest possible success rates in transplantations. Montefiore's overall success rates for liver transplantation are about 85 percent after one year and 75 to 80 percent long term. Once patients pass the one-year mark with stable liver function, a normal life expectancy is certainly achievable.

Approximately 30 to 40 percent of recipients will experience some complications within three months of transplant. Yet, these complications are mild and treatable in most cases. Complications and recovery are more severe when patients are extremely sick prior to transplant. These may include infections, jaundice, ascites, kidney failure, pneumonia, wound problems requiring surgery and toxic reactions to medications. Patients with a very high Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score at transplant and patients with acute liver failure are at higher risk for complications and a longer recovery, and their overall survival rates are also lower.

Transplant Patients with Hepatitis or Cancer

For patients with hepatitis C, recurrence of the hepatitis causing damage to the new liver is the most common reason for the new liver to fail. This can happen over many years, but in rare cases, it can also occur within the first few months. Patients with recurrence of hepatitis may require treatment with interferon, which may slow the progression of damage.

Patients with liver cancer can experience recurrence of the cancer after transplant, even if the initial cancer was small. Small tumors (micrometastases) may be present outside the liver at the time of transplant that are not visible on imaging tests. These can grow and cause symptoms later. Fortunately, recurrence is uncommon after transplantation (there is about a 30 percent risk of recurrence) if patients have early-stage liver cancer (Stage I or II).

Patients with hepatitis B can also experience recurrence, but much less commonly than with hepatitis C. Hepatitis B is prevented using a combination of an immune globulin injection given in the office and an antiviral medication, which is taken for life.