In this study, we describe a cohort of patients who received liver transplants before January 1, 1989 at the University of Minnesota Medical Center (UMMC), and we evaluate the health-related quality of life (HRQOL) of the survivors of this group. One hundred sixty-one patients - 66 adults and 95 children - received whole deceased donor liver transplants. Thirteen transplants occurred before 1980, and all these patients died within 6 months; they were excluded from the survival analysis because they came from the pre-cyclosporine era. The survival rates at 1, 5, 10, and 20 years were 72%, 57%, 49%, and 37%, respectively (34% when pre-1980 patients were included). The median survival time was approximately 10 years for adult and pediatric recipients. The causes of death were ascertained by chart reviews. Technical failures were common between the years 1980 and 1984, and they decreased to 0% by 1988. As for HRQOL, 53 patients (36%) survived and were contacted to complete a 12-item health survey [Short Form 12 (SF-12)]. Retransplants were excluded. Sixty-eight percent returned the SF-12 survey. The median age for all respondents was 31.4 years: the median was 67.4 years for adult survivors and 28.8 years for pediatric survivors. The Mental Component Summary (MCS) score was 54.6 for adult survivors and 48.6 for pediatric survivors. The Physical Component Summary (PCS) score was 39.3 for adult survivors and 49.2 for pediatric survivors. Both the MCS and the PCS were norm-based to the US population with a mean of 50 and a standard deviation of 10. In conclusion, 35.8% of liver transplant recipients from UMMC were alive 20 years after liver transplantation. Technical failure-related deaths decreased dramatically from 1980 to 1988. The mental health of pediatric and adult survivors was similar to that of the general population. The physical health of the pediatric survivors was equivalent to that of the general population, but it was slightly less than what was expected with adjustments for age. The physical health of the adult survivors was approximately 1 standard deviation below that of the general population.