Liver Transplant

What Is a Liver Transplant?

A liver transplant is a complex procedure that entails replacing a diseased or failing liver with a healthy one from a donor. For individuals with severe liver conditions, this life-saving intervention can potentially offer an enhanced quality and quantity of life.

Who Needs a Liver Transplant?

Liver transplants are typically recommended for individuals with end-stage liver disease or other severe liver conditions that cannot be effectively managed with medications or other treatments. Common reasons for needing a liver transplant include:


The most common reason for a liver transplant is advanced liver cirrhosis where the liver has sustained excessive scarring, making it unable to function properly.

Acute Liver Failure

Sudden and severe liver failure, often caused by acute viral hepatitis, drug toxicity, or other factors, may necessitate urgent liver transplantation.

Liver Cancer

Certain cases of liver cancer (e.g. early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma who are not suitable candidates for surgical resection) may necessitate a liver transplant.

Genetic Liver Diseases

Certain inherited liver diseases such as hemochromatosis and Wilson's disease may progress to the point where transplantation becomes necessary.

Biliary Atresia

This is a congenital condition where the bile ducts are absent or abnormally developed, which often leads to liver damage and may require a transplantation.

What Are the Types of Liver Transplants Available?

Liver transplants can be categorised into two types based on the source of the donated liver:

Living Donor Liver Transplant

A portion of a healthy liver is surgically removed from a living donor and transplanted into the recipient.

Deceased Donor Liver Transplant

The liver is obtained from a deceased individual who has previously consented to organ donation.

Split Liver Transplantation

A deceased donor's liver is divided into two portions, each transplanted into different recipients.

The Liver Transplant Process

The process of liver transplantation typically involves a series of stages, such as:

Pre-Transplant Evaluation

This stage involves a thorough assessment of the patient's health to determine their suitability for a liver transplant, including physical and psychological evaluations.

Placement on the Waiting List

Eligible patients are placed on the national organ transplant waiting list, where they await the availability of a suitable donor liver based on medical urgency and compatibility.

Assessment of Compatibility

When a donor liver becomes available, the medical team evaluates its compatibility with the recipient based on factors such as blood type, severity of condition, need, and more. Approval will have to be granted before the procedure can proceed.

Transplantation Procedure

The transplant surgery entails the removal of the diseased liver and the transplantation of the healthy donor liver by a specialised surgical team.

Post-Transplant Care

After the surgery, patients are closely monitored to detect any signs of organ rejection. They will also receive medications and undergo rehabilitation to aid in their recovery and ensure long-term well-being.

What Are the Possible Risks and Complications of a Liver Transplant?

The process of liver transplantation typically involves a series of stages, such as:

Surgical Risks

These encompass a range of potential complications directly associated with the transplant surgery. This includes bleeding, blood clots, anaesthesia-related issues, and damage to surrounding structures during the surgical procedure.

Rejection of the Transplanted Liver

This occurs when the recipient's immune system identifies the new liver as a foreign entity and initiates an immune response to reject it. This can lead to significant complications and require adjustments to the patient's treatment regimen.


Due to the use of immunosuppressant medications to prevent organ rejection, transplant recipients are at an increased risk of developing infections. These can range from common viral illnesses to more severe bacterial or fungal infections, requiring vigilant monitoring.

Recovering From a Liver Transplant

Recovery from a liver transplant involves an initial hospital stay of around 5 to 10 days for close monitoring of possible organ rejection, infections, and surgical complications. After you have been cleared for discharge, regular follow-up appointments will be arranged to monitor your health, liver function, as well as your medication’s effectiveness and side effects.

Rehabilitation plays a crucial role in regaining strength, mobility, and independence. Additionally, lifestyle changes, including diet, exercise, and substance avoidance, will be recommended to support long-term well-being.

Typically, it takes six to twelve months to fully recover from liver transplant surgery. You may be able to resume normal activities or return to work a few months after the procedure, depending on your initial health condition and the progress of your recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the success rate of liver transplants in Singapore?

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What are the factors influencing the success of a liver transplant?

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What are the challenges faced in liver transplantations?

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Dr Kieron Lim Image

Meet Our Liver Transplant doctor

Dr Kieron Lim

MBBS, University of LondonMember, Royal College of Physicians (UK)Fellow, Academy of Medicine (Gastroenterology) SingaporeFellow, Royal College of Physicians (Edinburgh)

Dr Kieron Lim is a senior consultant specialising in Gastroenterology and Hepatology. He currently serves as the Medical Director of the Liver Transplant Program at Mount Elizabeth Hospital. Dr Lim graduated from St Bartholomew’s and The Royal London School of Medicine (UK), and underwent fellowship training in liver disease and transplantation at Mount Sinai, New York (USA). Dr Lim was formerly the Medical Director for Liver Transplantation at the National University Centre for Organ Transplantation.