Liver transplantation is the only effective method for healing people suffering from serious diseases such as decompensated liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, or acute liver failure. In the case of a person suffering from decompensated liver cirrhosis, the survival rate of up to one year is only 10%, and with transplantation, it can reach 85% to 90%.
A liver transplant is extremely difficult because it includes both components involved in a surgery: removal of the diseased organ and implantation of the healthy one. Removal of the diseased organ is an extremely difficult operation because the anatomy of the area is very complex. The recipient’s liver must be detached from all surrounding organs, and this operation involves many risks and a perfect surgical technique.
How Much Does a Liver Transplant Cost?
If you have health insurance, be prepared to co-pay for the prescribed medication, lab and doctor visits, and also a coinsurance of 10% to 50% for the surgery and other procedures. In general, the cost of a liver transplant is covered by health insurance policies.
In case you do not have health insurance, expect to pay around $580,000 or even more for a liver transplant surgery. The costs of the medication and follow-up care for the next six months after the surgery are also included in this price.
The Vimo.com website notes that the average price for a liver transplant is around $335,000 and the average price when negotiated through an insurance company is around $101,000.
The monthly costs for the drugs necessary after the procedure, which include the prednisone and the anti-rejection drug Prograf, are more than $3,100, according to the California Pacific Medical Center.
TransplantLiving.com claims that the total price paid for a liver transplant starting with the month prior to the surgery through the six months of anti-rejection medicines could go up to more than $580,000, including more than $21,000 for the drugs. The costs for the tests made prior to surgery, the surgery itself, hospitalization in case of complications, after-surgery care, plus anti-rejection and other medicines are all included in this price.
The most common drugs prescribed for anti-rejection that must be taken for the rest of the life, are prednisone, tacrolimus (brand name Prograf), and mycophenolate mofetil (brand name CellCept). Depending on the dose, the monthly costs for the brand name Prograf are anywhere between $420 and $2,100 if bought from DrugsDepot.com. Also, the costs per month for the generic tacrolimus are more than $1,100. Generic mycophenolate mofetil costs less than $35 per month, while the monthly cost for Prednisone is less than $15.
Liver Transplant Details
Screening is conducted at a transplant center to determine whether or not you are eligible for the procedure. If it’s determined that surgery will be required, compatibility tests must also be done in order to prevent any complications from occurring beforehand and during recovery phases following surgery as well.
The liver transplant process varies based on the situation. If a living donor is being used, tests will be conducted to ensure the compatibility of that person with the receiver. If there is no available donor, the patient has to sign up on an organ donor waiting list. The waiting time for a liver is determined in part by what’s called the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease, which takes into account patient quality and urgency. If you’re interested, Organdonor.gov provides an easy-to-read guide referring to the transplant process.
When the patient is ready, they are positioned on an operating table and put under general anesthesia. A surgeon removes their liver so that it can be replaced with a donor’s liver which has been prepped for surgery, then is connected to various veins, arteries as well as bile ducts in order to create an effective connection between all components.
The patient has to stay in the hospital for one week or even more, depending on how well they are recovering.
What are the extra costs?
After the liver transplant surgery, a patient will need anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his/her life. The monthly costs for these medicines, including the prednisone and the anti-rejection drug Prograf, are more than $3,500, according to the California Pacific Medical Center.
Depending on the gravity of the problem, liver transplant complications might cost tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. For instance, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgery, the price to treat a post-surgical complication like pneumonia would be around $81,000.
There are situations when a patient will need a second transplant during his/her life. According to some studies, around 33% of the livers that come from the deceased donors perform their functions only for five years, and around 47% fail within 10 years.
Important things to consider
The liver is considered to be the most complex and metabolically active organ in the whole body.
The liver can continue to function even after 70% of the liver tissue has been removed. When a donor donates more than half of his liver for transplant, the remaining portion can resume its function without any deficit and without serious complications. This is due to the ability of the liver to regenerate, this being the only organ that can regenerate after removing more than half of its mass.
The Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients offers a map and list to locate transplant centers in the United States.
The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse is a valuable resource for people interested in liver transplants. They offer detailed information on the process, its risks, and benefits as well as what patients should expect before surgery to help them prepare mentally while also being aware that complications can occur post-surgery.
How can I save money?
Financial counselors are typically on staff at transplant centers, and they will work with you to find payment ways that fit within your budget.
HelpHOPELive is a platform that helps patients conduct community fundraising campaigns to raise money for transplants. The organization charges a 4% to 7% fee.
Cash-paying or uninsured patients can benefit from a discount of 30% or even more at most hospitals.