Over time, chronic Hepatitis C can lead to severe liver problems – including cirrhosis and liver cancer – resulting in decreased liver function and ultimately, liver failure. When the liver can no longer perform its vital functions a transplant may be the only option. People are typically considered for a liver transplant when their liver is working at approximately 10-20 percent of what is considered normal. Chronic Hepatitis C is the most frequent cause of liver transplantation in the United States.
A liver transplant replaces a damages liver with a healthy one from someone else. Most of the time, a liver is donated from someone who has died. In rare cases, a living person donates a portion of their liver. Livers must be matched for blood type and body size.
Advances in the surgical and medical management of liver transplantation have led to improved outcomes, however, people with Hepatitis C generally don’t do as well since the virus usually infects the donor liver. Most people who receive a liver transplant for Hepatitis C survive at least five years after their transplant.
There are many things that are taken into consideration when getting evaluated for a liver transplant. You need to be healthy enough to tolerate the surgery and recovery period – which is long – and have a support system in place that can help you through the process. Your doctor will determine if your liver disease is severe enough that referral for a transplant is appropriate.