States with higher transplant rates may have shorter waiting times, but factors such as health, age, and blood type affect how long a person may have to wait for a liver transplant.

The United States has a national waiting list for people requiring a liver transplant. Some states may have shorter waiting lists than others.

Eligible people with more urgent need of a liver transplant will have top priority. Other factors such as age, location, blood type, and body size can also affect waiting times.

This article looks at states with the shortest waiting lists, factors affecting waiting times, and how people can prepare while waiting.

People delivering organs to hospitals in states with the shortest liver transplant waiting list.Share on Pinterest
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A liver transplant is a surgical procedure for people with liver disease or injury.

A surgeon removes a liver that is not functioning properly and replaces it with a healthy liver from a donor. Liver transplants can be life-saving procedures for people with liver failure.

Most liver transplants are from deceased donors, which means surgeons remove the liver from a person who has recently died and transplants it into a person who needs the liver.

Adult candidates for liver transplants may receive a whole liver from a donor. Occasionally, surgeons will split a liver between an adult and a child or smaller adult.

Less commonly, people may have a liver transplant from a living donor. This means a living person will donate part of their healthy liver to a person who requires a liver transplant.

The remaining liver in the donor, and the section of the liver in the person receiving the transplant, grow back to normal size after surgery.

Learn more about organ transplants.

The Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) has a database that people can use to search for transplant centers. The results show various statistics, including the number of transplants the center performed over a year and survival rates.

According to the database, the centers with the quickest transplant rates from deceased donors between January 1 and December 31, 2021 are as follows.

Florida (FL)

The Mayo Clinic Florida in Jacksonville has one of the highest liver transplant rates. This means they have a fast rate of matching deceased donors to candidates.

The center carried out 149 transplants from deceased donors in 2021.

UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, also ranks highly with 158 transplants in that year.

Mississippi (MS)

The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson ranks in the top tiers of quickest transplant rates. They carried out 48 transplants from deceased donors across a year.

North Carolina (NC)

The Duke University Hospital in Durham ranks highly for transplant rates at 102 but lower for survival rates on the waiting list.

Arizona (AZ)

The Mayo Clinic Arizona in Phoenix performed 209 liver transplants from deceased donors within a year.

Other states currently with faster transplant rates include:

  • Illinois (IL)
  • Missouri (MO)
  • Ohio (OH)

There is a national waiting list for people who require a liver transplant. The average waiting time for a liver transplant from a deceased donor can vary from 30 days to over 5 years.

A healthcare professional will contact people as soon as a liver match becomes available, and they will need to go to the donor site immediately to receive the transplant.

People with life threatening liver disease or injury have priority for liver transplants and will be at the top of the national waiting list.

Candidates over the age of 12 years will have a priority score from a formula called the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD). This uses a range of test results to calculate a score:

  • creatinine levels in the blood, which indicates kidney function
  • bilirubin levels in the blood, which shows how well the liver excretes bile
  • international normalized ratio (INR), which shows how well the liver can make proteins involved in blood clotting
  • sodium levels in the blood

For children under 12 years old, the Pediatric End-Stage Liver Disease (PELD) formula calculates a priority score. PELD uses the following factors to work out a score:

  • albumin levels, a protein in the blood which may be low if the liver is not functioning properly
  • bilirubin
  • INR
  • whether growth rate is normal for a person’s age, based on their gender, height, and weight
  • age at listing

The Organ Procurement & Transplantation Network (OPTN) provides a MELD calculator and a PELD calculator for people to calculate their priority score.

Other factors that affect waiting times include:

  • age
  • location
  • blood type
  • body size
  • overall health
  • availability of a matching liver

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is a nonprofit organization working under a contract with the federal government to run the national organ transplant system.

The UNOS has certain policies in place for liver transplants. People with urgent need of liver transplantation to prevent imminent death have the status of 1A and 1B.

People with this status are eligible for any matching donor livers within 500 nautical miles of their registered hospital.

There are usually less than 50 candidates with status 1A and 1B at any given time nationwide.

For everyone else who does not have this status, the distribution of livers from deceased donors depends on:

  • the age of the donor and cause of death
  • MELD or PELD score
  • distance of transplant hospital from the donor hospital

Due to access challenges, Hawaii (HI), Puerto Rico (PR), and Alaska (AK) have different policies from the rest of the U.S. People in Hawaii and Puerto Rico may have priority from local donors before candidates from other areas.

People may not be eligible for a liver transplant if they have:

The cost of a liver transplant can depend on various factors such as:

  • location
  • hospital and their policies
  • insurance coverage

People may also have to account for nonmedical expenses such as:

  • transportation to the donor site
  • any child or pet care that people may require while they are in surgery
  • lost wages if an employer does not pay for time away due to medical reasons
  • food and lodging if the transplant center is not local

The UNOS provides information and resources for helping people cover transplants, transportation, and related healthcare costs.

A donor could become available at any time. For this reason, a person should ensure they are ready for a liver transplant.

While waiting for a transplant, people can take the following measures to prepare:

  • attending all scheduled appointments
  • creating a support system of healthcare professionals, family, and friends
  • staying as healthy as possible to help recovery
  • taking any medications as a doctor prescribes
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • avoiding alcohol and drug misuse
  • following any exercise and dietary guidelines from a healthcare professional
  • remaining available by phone so that a healthcare team can make contact at any time
  • staying organized and keeping any medical information on hand
  • planning transportation to the donor site and having a bag packed and ready to go at short notice
  • making a financial plan to cover costs
  • considering joining a transplant support group
  • learning about the process and what to expect
  • considering counseling or therapy to help deal with the emotional impact of the transplant process

People may wait between 30 days to over 5 years for liver transplants. Outlook for waiting times depends on factors such as:

  • level of liver damage
  • age
  • location
  • overall health
  • body size
  • blood type

People receiving a liver from a living donor will need a donor with a compatible liver and body size.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), survival rates for people receiving liver transplants from deceased donors are as follows:

  • 86% at 1 year
  • 78% at 3 years
  • 72% at 5 years
  • roughly 53% at 20 years

The success of a liver transplant and long-term survival rates may vary for each individual, depending on their situation and overall health.

People needing a liver transplant can go onto a national waiting list. People in urgent need of a liver transplant have top priority.

Florida may have the shortest waiting list as they have the highest transplant rates from deceased donors.

Waiting times can depend on factors such as liver health, overall health, age, location, blood type, and body size.