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At Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, we have a strong foundation of excellence in liver transplants. Some of our impressive milestones include

  • New England’s first successful liver transplant was performed by our surgical team in July 1983.
  • New England’s first Live Adult Donor Liver Transplant (LADLT) was performed by our surgical team in December 1998.
  • Lahey’s Live Donor Adult Liver Transplant program is the largest in the country, with more than 270 surgeries performed to date.
  • Our Live Donor Adult Liver Transplant Program was one of the first in the country to receive accreditation from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS.)
  • Our combined team of liver and kidney transplant surgeons performed the nation’s first combined live donor liver and kidney transplant in 1999.

Our liver transplant team performed the first domino transplant in the United States for familial amyloidotic polyneuropathy in 1992, and we have since maintained one of the highest volumes of such surgeries nationally. (In a domino transplant, a younger person with familial amyloidosis, a condition in which an abnormal protein damages the body’s tissues and affects the organs, gives his or her liver to an older person, who most likely will be unaffected by the condition which takes decades to develop. The donor then receives a liver transplant from another donor.)

At Lahey, you can be assured that you will be in expert hands for liver transplantation.

Reasons for Liver Transplantation

The liver is the largest internal organ in the human body. It performs over 500 functions and produces over 1,000 enzymes and other proteins that are essential for good health. You cannot live without your liver. When your liver has failed and transplantation is necessary, a donated liver may come from one of two sources:

About the Liver

The liver is located in the right upper abdomen, just below the diaphragm. Some of its most important tasks include:

  • Converting nutrients from food into important enzymes, minerals, vitamins, hormones, and other molecules that the body needs to function properly
  • Storing molecules such as glycogen (a form of stored energy for cells), vitamins, and minerals until needed for other organs
  • Breaking down harmful substances, such as alcohol and poisons, into less harmful ones
  • Producing bile, a fluid that helps the body digest fats and nutrients

The liver is the only internal organ capable of full regeneration. As little as 25% of a liver can regrow into a full liver. This regenerative property is the essence of live donor liver transplantation, a procedure in which a portion of a donor’s liver is transplanted into a recipient. Both livers will grow in size and return to normal function in a matter of weeks.

Liver Diseases that Lead to Liver Transplantation

A number of diseases can impair or destroy liver function to the point that a liver transplant is necessary. They include:

  • Chronic viral hepatitis (hepatitis, B, C, and D), which causes inflammation and chronic damage to the liver
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Acute liver failure, usually from a virus or from ingesting a poisonous substance
  • Autoimmune hepatitis, in which the body’s immune system malfunctions and destroys liver tissue
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), related disease in which fat deposits accumulate in the liver
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), progressive diseases that cause liver failure
  • Hepatic (liver) tumors
  • Metabolic and genetic disorders, which are inherited and include diseases such as alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency, hemochromatosis, Wilson’s disease, and polycystic liver disease