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Viral Hepatitis and Liver Disease

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Liver Transplant: Pittsburgh Transplant Center

for Veterans and the Public

Pittsburgh Transplant Center - Liver Transplant for Patients

The information in this section refers to the Pittsburgh Transplant Center and is only applicable to you if this is your designated transplant site. Please remember that each transplant facility may handle transplantation differently.

Team Members

Much like at your local facility, your transplant facility will have a team of specialists and support working with you on your liver transplant. Your team will offer a multidisciplinary and comprehensive approach to your care, and will include:

  • Transplant Patient and his/her Support Person (family/friends)
  • Transplant Surgeon
  • Transplant Coordinator
  • Transplant Hepatologist
  • Anesthesiologist
  • Physician Assistant
  • Administrative Support Personnel
  • Inpatient Nurse
  • Pharmacist
  • Nutritionist/Dietician
  • Physical Therapist
  • Social Workers
  • Psychologists

The Facility

The liver transplant program at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System (VAPHS) has been in existence since its inception in 1989 and is the largest and first VA center to offer liver transplants. Over 600 liver transplants have been performed in VAPHS with a success rate which meets or exceeds the national average. In January 2004, the VAPHS began the first independent, in-house VA transplant center in the country. This entailed the VAPHS having its own United Network Organ Sharing (UNOS) charter for liver and kidney transplants. The VAPHS independent transplant center's first year proved to be quite successful. Over forty liver transplants were successfully performed that year.

The goal of the liver transplant program is to provide state-of-the-art, patient-centered transplant care. To enhance its innovative, independent, liver transplant program, the VAPHS has a team of highly experienced surgeons, who are dedicated to providing care exclusively at VAPHS.

Evaluation at Pittsburgh

Once you have been approved for evaluation at the VAPHS by the VA National Transplant Program, you will be contacted by the nurse coordinator in Pittsburgh regarding your evaluation. Your evaluation can usually be scheduled within one month after your tranplant referral is approved (either in-person or virtually). If you are in more emergent need of evaluation then direct admission to the VAPHS for an expeditious work up may be required. The usual evaluation time frame is approximately one week but may be longer if you require extensive testing. When your evaluation has been scheduled, you will receive a packet in the mail listing your appointments for the week. It will also include basic information about the program and lodging. You may receive additional materials from other departments at the medical center, but all scheduling will be coordinated through the transplant office. Please call the office or your coordinator if you have any questions regarding the schedule.

Your referring VA medical center will arrange necessary transportation for you and your support person. Payment for the fl ight(s) are incurred by your primary VA. Payment for ground transportation from the Pittsburgh International Airport to the VAPHS will be incurred by our facility. Our social worker will contact you prior to your evaluation to make your lodging arrangements. Veterans typically stay in hotels or our Family House, near the medical center. The cost of lodging at one of the various local hotels is incurred by the VAPHS. Individuals must be ambulatory and are responsible for bringing and taking their own medications along with being accountable for paying any out of pocket expenses.

Following your transplant evaluation, the transplant team will determine if you are an appropriate candidate for liver transplantation. Once listed for transplant, the waiting time is best estimated by your MELD-Na (Model for End Stage Liver Disease) score and your blood type. Wait times and transportation to the VAPHS when a donor becomes available will be explained to you in detail during your transplant evaluation.

The transplant itself may take 6-12 hours. You are usually in the intensive care unit (ICU) for 1-3 days if you do not incur any complications. From the ICU, you are transferred to the 6 West liver unit where surgeons and physician assistants continue to monitor your progress and make changes regarding your anti-rejection medications. You can anticipate staying on the 6 West unit approximately 10-14 days. From the hospital you will be discharged to the local hotel with your support person for a trial of independent living. During this time period, you will continue to have bloodwork done on an outpatient basis 2 times per week and be seen in the weekly liver clinic on Fridays. Following a total of 30 days from your transplant and again if you are not incurring any complications, you will be able to return home. Your primary VA will be notified of your post transplant recovery period, lab draw frequency and post operative medications. You will need to return to the VAPHS 4 months post transplant for removal of a small plastic tube that we often use to keep the bile ducts open during surgery (a T Tube). Again, if you incur no complications then you will return to the VAPHS after one year for follow up and will have imaging at that time. After your one-year follow up, you will follow up with your local VA at least once a year for life. Your transplant coordinator is your primary contact at the VAPHS and will monitor your condition lifelong.

Local Information

Pittsburgh is located in the western region of Pennsylvania, and has a humid, subtropical climate. The city's climate features abundant precipitation throughout the year and four distinct seasons. Summer temperatures in Pittsburgh can average with highs in the lower 80s and lows in the lower 60s. The warmest months tend to be July through August. Winter temperatures average with highs in the upper 30s and lows in the 20s.

Pittsburgh receives heavy precipitation due to its position near the Allegheney Mountains, and as such the city is subject to many overcast days. May is the rainiest month of the year due to frequent thunderstorms. A durable, weather-resistant coat or umbrella is highly recommended. February is the driest month in Pittsburgh, but snowfalls are not uncommon and cold-weather garments and sturdy, lined shoes are recommended.

All major banks can be found in the general Pittsburgh area. ATMs can be found in the surrounding areas and within the VA hospital. Some ATMs may require a usage fee.

Contact Information

VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System
University Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15240
Phone: 1.866.482.7488

Liver Transplant Division
University Drive C
Phone: 412.688.6155
Fax: 412.688.6942