Liver transplantation has revolutionized the care of patients with end-stage liver disease. Liver transplantation is indicated for acute or chronic liver failure from any cause. Because there are no randomized controlled trials of liver transplantation versus no therapy, the efficacy of this surgery is best assessed by carefully comparing postoperative survival with the known natural history of the disease in question. The best examples of this are in primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis, for which well-validated disease-specific models of natural history are available. There are currently relatively few absolute contraindications to liver transplantation. These include severe cardiopulmonary disease, uncontrolled systemic infection, extrahepatic malignancy, severe psychiatric or neurological disorders, and absence of a viable splanchnic venous inflow system. One of the most frequently encountered contraindications to transplantation is ongoing destructive behavior caused by drug and alcohol addiction. The timing of the surgery can have a profound impact on the mortality and morbidity of patients undergoing liver transplantation. Because of the long waiting lists for donor organs, the need to project far in advance when transplantation might be required has proven to be one of the greatest challenges to those treating patients with end-stage liver disease. Three important questions must be addressed in a patient being considered for liver transplantation: (1) when should the patient be referred for possible transplantation? (2) when should the patient be listed for transplantation? and (3) when is the patient too sick to have a reasonable chance of surviving the perioperative period?