The Center for Organ Transplantation at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center is the leading provider of transplant services in southern New Jersey. Lourdes is one of only two hospitals in the state of New Jersey approved to perform liver transplants. Since the program's inception in 2000, our staff of surgeons, hepatologists, coordinators, social workers and other specialists have been giving individuals in need of liver transplants a new lease on life. The Lourdes team provides the best care possible before, during and after the transplant surgery.
Liver transplantation can restore better health to patients with conditions such as acute and chronic viral hepatitis (B and C), autoimmune hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver tumors, metabolic conditions like Wilson's disease, and poisoning or damage caused by long-term substance abuse.
To increase their chances of receiving an organ, patients waiting for transplantation at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center can be listed at other transplantation hospitals as long as they are affiliated with a different organ procurement organization. For that reason, patients can be listed with both Lourdes, which is affiliated with the Sharing Network, as well as any of the Philadelphia hospitals that provide transplant services, which are affiliated with the Gift of Life organization.
Sources of OrgansToday, more than 17,000 people in the United States are on waiting lists for liver transplants. Livers for transplantation come from only one source—individuals who have died, usually suddenly from an accident, and who have signed an organ donor card or have previously expressed to their families a willingness to donate their organs.
People in need of a liver transplant are placed on a list kept by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). Your priority for a transplant is based on your Model for End-Stage Liver Disease, or MELD, score. The score is determined from three routine laboratory tests measuring: bilirubin, your liver's ability to make bile; prothrombin time, the liver's ability to produce clotting factors; and creatinine, which looks at kidney function. The score also considers if there is a tumor in the liver. Your score can change over time, and those with higher scores are considered for transplant first.
What to ExpectNormally, your doctor will forward a copy of your medical records to a Lourdes transplant hepatologist for review. Lourdes hepatologists hold clinics several times a week exclusively for liver disease and transplant candidates.
During your transplant evaluation, you will undergo a number of medical tests, as well as meet members of the Our Lady of Lourdes Transplant Team: surgeons, transplant coordinator nurses, social workers, dietitians, finance managers and other specialists as necessary.
The medical tests and procedures will include:
- Blood tests to check your blood count, clotting factors and liver function. (Your first MELD score also will be measured.)
- A magnetic resonance image (MRI) of the abdomen.
- A chest X-ray;
- An echocardiogram to check for abnormalities in the heart, its valves or blood flow through it.
- An electrocardiogram (EKG) recording electrical activity in the heart.
- A catheterization and angiogram to exam blood flow through the liver, heart and other blood vessels.
- An endoscopy to detect any bleeding or enlarged blood vessels in the gastrointestinal tract.
- A colonoscopy to check for any pre-cancerous polyps.
- A liver biopsy.
- An ultrasound to check for obstructions or tumors in the liver.
- Any required vaccinations.
- A skin test to see if you have been exposed to tuberculosis.
- A dental checkup to make sure your teeth are healthy and free from infection.
- If you're a woman, a mammogram.
The SurgeryMany tests are performed to ensure that donated organs are functioning and disease free prior to transplant. All donor organs are screened for hepatitis and AIDS. The donor and recipient do not have to be the same age or sex. Matches are based on blood type and on the organ's size and shape.
Once a suitable liver becomes available, you will be notified to come to the Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center for surgery. You will receive a final physical examination prior to surgery.
You will be closely monitored following surgery and can expect to remain in the hospital for several weeks.
Life after TransplantLiver transplant patients are often prescribed a special diet to prevent water retention and to maintain a normal weight and blood pressure.
While you should be able to resume normal activities within six-to-12 months, your relationship with Lourdes will continue. Following transplant, a daily routine of immunosuppressant drugs will be prescribed to decrease the risk of your body rejecting the new liver. You will return for periodic checkups so the team can evaluate your new liver's function and your overall health. We consider each individual who receives a transplant here a member of the Lourdes family.