Treatment Team of the Liver Transplant Program
The complexity of transplantation surgery and the underlying medical conditions that lead to the need for a transplant require a coordinated and collaborative approach to medical care. You will be cared for by a team of skilled counselors, nurses, physicians, surgeons, and other professionals who will guide you through each step on the road to your transplant.
Below is a summary of the different types of UPMC staff who will help to care for you and guide you through the transplant process.
If you are a candidate for liver transplantation, you will be evaluated by a transplant surgeon, who will discuss your condition with you and your family; address questions and concerns; and talk about appropriate treatment options, including transplantation.
This surgeon will be the person who performs the surgical procedure to remove your diseased liver and transplant the donor’s liver. UPMC’s transplant surgeons often perform other procedures, such as resection and duct reconstruction for malignancies, bypass surgery, and portal decompression procedures. They have a thorough understanding of the management of immunosuppressive drugs, which will help your body accept the newly transplanted organ, and potential drug complications.
Transplant physicians are specialists who will take part in your care before and after transplantation surgery. Transplant physicians, who may also be transplant surgeons, are responsible for nonsurgical (medical) care, which may include nonsurgical procedures such as endoscopy. They include endocrinologists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, hepatologists, neurologists, oncologists, nephrologists and physicians from other nonsurgical specialties.
At the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, patients may be referred to a transplantation physician at any appropriate time from evaluation through completion of treatment.
The transplant psychiatric team helps transplant patients and their families cope with the stresses related to chronic disease and the transplant process. Services, provided by psychiatric nurses and physicians, include individual and family supportive therapy, relaxation and stress management training, and addiction counseling. A psychiatrist can provide medication, if needed.
The team provides individual treatment programs that are tailored to each patient’s needs. Programs range from short-term consultation to ongoing support and outpatient follow-up.
Anesthesiologists are doctors who administer medications that keep people asleep during surgery or other procedures. Anesthesiologists are responsible for monitoring vital signs (heartbeat, blood pressure, and breathing) during transplants and other operations. They also deal with pain management.
Transplant pathologists are doctors who are involved in processing and evaluating tissue biopsies, as well as in the accurate histological diagnosis of the disease process.
Transplant coordinators are registered nurses who have training and experience in caring for transplant patients. Transplant coordinators assist and guide patients and their families through the transplant process, from evaluation through postoperative outpatient care.
Transplant coordinators provide instruction and education about transplantation to patients and their families. They monitor patients' conditions and provide other members of the transplant team with appropriate patient information and test results. Coordinators also communicate valuable information to each patient’s local physician and serve as links that connect all health care professionals involved in a patient’s care.
Transplant Social Workers
Transplant social workers are specially trained in the unique financial, education, and support needs of transplant patients. They connect transplant patients and their families with resources and information about housing, finances, community and support services, and vocational rehabilitation. Social workers assist patients and their families with discharge planning by referring them to needed services and resources.
Before, during, and after a patient’s hospital stay, a social worker is available to provide educational information and individual, family, or group counseling.
The same social worker typically follows a patient through the entire transplant process.
Transplant Office Assistants and Medical Assistants
Transplant office assistants are responsible for scheduling clinic appointments and all testing procedures, including x-rays. When necessary, medical assistants check a patient’s blood pressure, temperature, and pulse and obtain blood specimens.
Transplant pharmacists are registered pharmacists who specialize in medical therapy for transplant recipients. Transplant pharmacists are involved in caring for patients while they are in the hospital and after they are discharged. As members of the transplant team, they work to ensure that each patient’s drug therapy is the most appropriate for his or her individual needs.
At the Starzl Institute, appointments with a transplant pharmacist are arranged as part of routine postoperative visits. Transplant pharmacists are available to answer questions concerning medications given in the hospital or at home. Visits with a pharmacist can be scheduled through a transplant coordinator.
Transplant dietitians are registered dietitians who have education and experience in managing nutrition for pre- and post-transplant patients. A transplant dietitian can assess a patient’s nutrition status and make recommendations about therapeutic diets and nutritional supplementation. Transplant dietitians teach patients and their families about special diets and can provide help regarding decreased appetite, weight loss, nausea, and vomiting. They also provide information about supplements and safe food handling and cooking.