University of Pennsylvania Health System

Liver Transplant Update | Penn Medicine

Friday, October 2, 2015

Join Team Philadelphia at the 2016 Transplant Games of America

The Gift of Life Donor Program is assembling a team of transplant recipients, donor family members, living donors and their supporters to participate in this year's Transplant Games of America, an Olympic-style athletic competition.

The event is intended to raise organ and tissue donor awareness by displaying the talents and abilities of individuals of all ages who have undergone life-saving transplant surgeries, as well as honoring families whose loved ones have given the gift of life.

Important Dates

The Games will be held from June 10 through 15, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.

If you’re interested in participating on Team Philadelphia, the first team meeting will be held October 10 from noon to 3pm, with additional meetings to follow. The meeting will be located at:
Crown Plaza
260 Mall Blvd., King of Prussia, PA

Please RSVP to team manager, Kelly Antczak, at 215-557-8090 or

Events and Activities at the Games

Competition is open to organ transplant recipients, living donors, bone marrow recipients and corneal and tissue transplant recipients.

Special programs and workshops will be available for donor families, and they are welcome to cheer on the athletes as they compete.

Events at the Transplant Games include:
  • 5K/10K run/walk 
  • Badminton
  • Basketball
  • Bocce
  • Bowling
  • Cycling
  • Darts
  • Golf
  • Racquetball
  • Swimming
  • Table tennis
  • Tennis
  • Track and field
  • Volleyball
  • Ballroom dancing
  • Cornhole (bean bag toss)
  • Texas hold-em poker
  • Trivia challenge
  • Virtual triathlon
  • Youth Olympiad


Please contact the Gift of Life Donor Program to learn more and register.

We look forward to seeing you at the 2016 Transplant Games!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Papal Visit Plans: Appointment Changes for Friday, September 25 and Monday, September 28

The week of September 21, 2015, Philadelphia will host an international conference, the World Meeting of Families, which culminates with a three-day visit from the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis.

We share in the City’s pride at having been selected to host these events. At this time, Penn Medicine is taking steps to plan for the impact of approximately two million attendees at the event, as well as the high level of security required for a world dignitary. It is expected that travel on major streets will be heavily restricted.

For these reasons, outpatient transplant appointments for Friday, September 25 and Monday, September 28 are being rescheduled. In the next few weeks, you will receive a letter noting the need to reschedule your appointment. Please feel free to contact the team in advance to reschedule for another appointment time that will be convenient for you.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Your transplant coordinators are available to answer any questions or concerns you may have about this appointment change.

The Penn Liver Transplant Team would like to thank you for understanding the circumstances that have created the need to reschedule. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Three FAQs About Live Liver Donation

Linda Wood
Linda Wood, RN, BSN, is a live liver donor coordinator at the Penn Transplant Institute. Linda has provided care to patients as a registered nurse for more than 20 years. In this article, she answers three of the most commonly asked questions about live donor liver transplantation.

Is it safe to be a living liver donor?

Protecting the donor's safety, health and well-being are the primary goals of the Penn Live Liver Donor Team’s evaluation process. As with any major surgery, there are some risks associated with living liver donation. While serious complications are rare, as with any surgery, they are possible.

All risks are outlined in detail for the donor during the evaluation. National studies have shown that approximately one-third of donors have some sort of postoperative complication and the great majority of complications are minor, reversible, or resolve on their own.

Potential serious side effects include bleeding, infection, liver failure, injury to the bile duct, complications from general anesthesia and death. The risk of death from being a living liver donor in the United States is less than 0.2 percent, which is similar to the risk of the average person being involved in a motor vehicle accident.

Who can be a donor?

To qualify as a living donor candidate, an individual must:
  • Have a compatible blood type
  • Be physically fit and have no significant medical problems
  • Not be obese based on the Body Mass Index
  • Be between 21 and 50 years of age; however, slightly younger or slightly older candidates may be considered on a case-by-case basis
  • Have health insurance
  • Be a family member, friend, or acquaintance of the recipient or their family

Is it possible for someone to be evaluated at Penn as a live liver donor if they live outside of the Greater Philadelphia Region?

The Penn Live Donor Liver team has developed a special evaluation protocol to meet the needs of long distance donors that helps to minimize their time away from home. It's important to note that after donation takes place and the donor is discharged from the hospital, it will be necessary for the donor to stay local to Philadelphia for approximately three to four weeks in order to make sure the recovery is proceeding as expected.

The recipient’s insurance will cover most medical/evaluation-related expenses for the donor, including testing/consults/surgery/hospitalization/and the first three months of post-operative follow-up and testing. The insurance may or may not pay for travel, lodging, and meal expenses incurred during the evaluation and transplant process. Donor candidates should ask our financial coordinators regarding coverage of those expenses. The National Living Donor Assistance Center offers financial support for travel costs associated with live donation.

Friday, August 7, 2015

National Minority Donation Awareness Week

During National Minority Donor Awareness Week, we wanted to share some information about why it's critical to increase the number of African American, Hispanic, Asian American and Pacific Islanders who say “yes” to organ donation.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HRSA), donors from the same ethnicity are more likely to be compatible. While organs are not specifically matched based on ethnic groups, HRSA notes that tissue markers and blood types are more likely to be found among members of the same ethnicity.

This is especially important because African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders currently comprise 58 percent of the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) transplant waiting list. According the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, last year 12,205 people of color received transplants, while 4,582 people of color went on to become organ donors.

The number of people of minorities waiting for an organ to become available, combined with the difficulty in finding compatible matches and the disproportionate number of African American, Hispanic, Asian American and Pacific Islander donors significantly contributes to the tragic reality that 18 people a day die in the United States waiting for an organ to become available.

In addition to this sobering statistic, many of the conditions leading to the need for a transplant — such as diabetes and hypertension — occur with greater frequency among people of color.

While research shows that the decision to donate is complex — with several different factors influencing families deciding about the opportunity to donate — experts agree that myths and misconceptions continue to keep people from all ethnicities from adding donor designation to their driver’s license and saying “yes” to donate a loved one’s organs.

Gift of Life Donor Program offers helpful myth busters to help people make decisions about organ and tissue donation based on facts instead of misinformation or fears. Here are a few misconceptions about organ donation followed by the facts from the Gift of Life web site:

Myth: If I'm in an accident and the hospital knows that I am designated as a donor, the doctors won't try to save my life.

Truth: Doctors, nurses and paramedics will do everything they can to save your life. In fact, an individual must be in a hospital, on a ventilator and pronounced brain dead in order to donate organs. Gift of Life Donor Program is not notified until life-saving efforts have failed. The transplant team is not notified by Gift of Life until permission has been given by the deceased’s family.

Myth: If I am a registered donor, doctors may remove my organs before I have passed away.

Truth: Brain death (when the brain dies due to lack of blood and oxygen) is a medically, legally and morally accepted determination of death. To determine brain death, more than one diagnosis of brain death and a series of tests over a period of time are required before the donor's family is presented with the opportunity to donate.

Myth: Organs can be bought or sold on the black market.

Truth: These stories are untrue and have become harmful urban legends. Due to the complexity of transplantation, the necessity of involvement from highly trained medical professionals, the process of matching donors with recipients, the need for modern medical facilities and the support necessary for transplantation make it impossible for this to actually happen. The buying and selling of organs and tissues is illegal, as part of the National Organ Transplant Act.

Myth: I am too old to be a donor.

Truth: There is no set age limit for organ and tissue donation. At the time of death, trained medical professionals will evaluate patients on a case-by-case basis to determine which organs and tissues are suitable for donation. Therefore, people of any age wishing to become organ and tissue donors should indicate it on their driver’s license and inform their family of their wishes.

Check out the Gift of Life Donor Program’s web site for more organ and tissue donation myth busters. If you’d like to learn more about what you can do to increase organ and tissue donation in your community, contact the Community Relations team from Gift of Life Donor Program at 1-800-DONORS-1.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Is It Safe to Swim After Transplant?

Dr. Emily Blumberg
If swimming is on your list of summer fun activities, take a minute to check out this interview with Emily Blumberg, MD, a national expert in transplant infectious disease and a member of the infectious disease team here at Penn. We asked Dr. Blumberg to explain the risks involved in swimming and her suggestions for avoiding infections while enjoying the activity. Here are her recommendations.

Why is it important for liver transplant recipients to learn about safe swimming?

We know that significant infections can result from water exposure, so it’s critical for liver transplant recipients to understand:
  • Where it is safe to swim
  • Where it is not safe to swim
  • When it is not safe to swim

Where is it safe for liver transplant recipients to swim?

It’s safe for liver transplant patients to swim in chlorinated pools. In most cases, the ocean is also okay, but patients should avoid swimming in the Chesapeake because the presence of some dangerous bacteria has been found there in recent years.

If liver transplant patients experience any kind of abrasion while in the ocean, the abrasion should be thoroughly cleaned with soap and an uncontaminated water source -- not the water they are swimming in -- to minimize the risk of infection.

Where is it unsafe for liver transplant recipients to go swimming?

Fresh-water swimming represents a high risk for infection. So it’s not safe for liver transplant recipients to swim in fresh water of any kind, which includes ponds, lakes, creeks, rivers and streams. Since it’s often part of vacation recreation, it’s probably helpful to mention that, because of several infection risks, hot tubs should also be avoided.

When is it unsafe for liver transplant recipients to go swimming?

If you are a liver transplant recipient with an open wound of any kind, it is not safe to swim at all. In addition, swimming should be avoided if you are being treated for rejection.

Remember, if you have questions about safe swimming, contact your transplant coordinator to verify that swimming is safe option for you before you go.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Volunteer at the Penn Transplant House

For many people, choosing the Penn Transplant Institute requires traveling far from home, which can be challenging throughout the transplant journey. As they explore transplant, receive consultations while waiting for an organ to become available and begin their recovery after the surgery, they have to navigate these new experiences in a large, unfamiliar city, without their typical community of support.

To support these patients and their family and friends who are caring for them, we built the Clyde F. Barker Penn Transplant House. The House provides a conveniently located guesthouse – a home away from home for transplant patients and their families and caregivers. Volunteers are invited to join us to share a touch of kindness and comfort that helps make the House a home, and nothing says comfort like a home-cooked meal.

You and your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers are invited to donate an evening to the Guest Chef’s program and prepare and share a meal with our out-of-town guests. We've found that this really helps ease the stress associated with meal planning and preparation.

If you're interested in serving as a guest chef at the Penn Transplant House, here are some quick facts about the program and ideas for participation.

Number of Guests

The anticipated number of guests is confirmed on the Friday afternoon prior to the meal date, when most new reservations are made. The number of expected guests for the following week may increase.

Preparing the Meal

It's perfectly acceptable to cook food in advance and simply reheat it. The Transplant House has two ovens, and different dishes can be cooked at the same time. Guest chefs may arrive several hours ahead of time to prepare the entire meal, but they are asked to notify the house manager prior to their arrival.

Kitchen Supplies

The Transplant House has a fully stocked kitchen with pots, pans, cookie sheets; cooking, serving and eating utensils; and bowls. It has all of the dinnerware and glassware needed for the meals, as well as a food processor, blender and hand-mixers. If there is a unique item needed to prepare the meal, please check with the house manager to find out if it is available.

Meal Planning and Dietary Restrictions

Since meals are not prepared each night and guests are not always the same, specific dietary needs and restrictions of guests are not known. Previous dinners have consisted of both patients and family members of patients. A typical meal may include: soup or salad, a protein, a starch, veggies, dessert and a beverage. (Please note: The Transplant House is an alcohol-free facility).

To be as welcoming and hospitable to all of the guests as possible, a vegetarian option should be available for each meal. Having a diabetic option for the desserts is also helpful and has been greatly appreciated by guests in the past. If you would like help in creating a meal plan, or would like to speak with someone about meal ideas, please contact the house manager, Kirsten King, at 215-662-4540.


Dinner is generally served between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. Please let the house manager know prior to the date of your dinner what your anticipated meal time is, so the guests may be notified and plan accordingly.


Since this house is also home to its guests, anyone who uses the kitchen is asked to clean up. To assist in the cleaning process, the house has three dishwashers, as well as the necessary cleaning supplies for the counter tops and kitchen surfaces, readily available.

Be Our Guest

The guest chef program is a fun way for individuals and groups to get involved in the important support the house provides. Our guests are always appreciative of the food and community building, as well as the generous gift of time and talent that each guest chef gives.

For more information on becoming a guest chef or to schedule a dinner with the Transplant House, please contact the house manager, Kirsten King, at 215-662-4540.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Summer Opportunity to Build Your Community of Support

July Liver Transplant Support Groups

Date: Tuesday, July 14 and Tuesday, July 28

Time: 12:00 to 1:00 pm

Location: Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine
3400 Civic Center Blvd.
Philadelphia PA 19104
Penn Transplant Institute - 2 West Conference Room

The liver transplant journey can present unique challenges throughout each phase of transplantation. Whether you're considering liver transplant, waiting for a liver to become available or continuing with life post-transplant, building a community of support is an important and ongoing process.

One resource that can help you connect with people who are having similar experiences is the Penn Liver Transplant Support Group. This group of people and caregivers meets twice a month and provides an opportunity to discuss all kinds of issues and offer suggestions to others based on what you have learned.

This group is invaluable for both pre- and post-transplant patients and their friends and family who offer support. Our liver transplant patients tell us that it’s helpful and encouraging to hear stories from people who have been through the process and connect with people who are also experiencing life on the transplant waiting list. Participating in the group as transplant recipient can also be beneficial, as it provides an opportunity for post-transplant patients to share the experiences to help others.

The July groups will meet on Tuesday, July 14 and Tuesday, July 28 at the 2 West Conference Room in the Penn Transplant Institute, which is located at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine.

For additional information, please call 215-662-6200.