How long is the liver transplant waiting list?

Dr. Ajay K. Sahajpal, MD
Transplant Surgeon

Livers are allocated to patients based on MELD score (Model for Endstage Liver Disease). This is a mathematical model that calculates a score based on "how sick" a patient is. It looks at kidney function, liver function and blood clotting. Livers generally go to the sickest patients first. The waiting time also greatly varies by geographic location. For example, in the U.S., the southeast has a very high donor rate per population and a shorter waiting time than the northeast. 

Allocation of livers for people on the waiting list is by MELD score. The score is made by three lab tests performed at routine labs, T bilirubin, INR, and creatine. The sicker one’s liver the higher the score. The highest score in a region is offered available livers. The average time to get a liver transplant after being placed on the list in the US is 20 months but actual time is solely dependent on MELD score.

There are approximately 16,000-17,000 people on the waiting list for liver transplants in the United States. The number of deceased donors has been relatively stable with between 6,000 and 7,000 deceased liver donations performed every year in the last five or six years.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.