Munson Health
 
Liver Transplant

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by Chwistek M
 

Reasons for Procedure

A liver transplant is done to treat a liver that is not working and cannot be treated. This may be caused by:
  • Cirrhosis
  • Hepatitis A , B , or C
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis, which is a disease of the bile ducts
  • Sudden liver failure
  • Congenital defects such as biliary atresia
  • Liver tumors
  • Metabolic defects such as Wilson disease
  • Poisoning or drug-induced damage
 

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

There is a shortage of donors. You may be on a transplant list for some time. You may need to carry a cell phone with you at all times. This is to allow the transplant team to reach you if a liver becomes available.
Your doctor will likely do the following:
Leading up to your surgery:
  • Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.
  • Take medications as directed. Do not take over-the-counter medications without checking with your doctor.
  • The night before, eat a light meal. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home. Also, arrange for someone to help you at home.
  • If advised by your doctor, use an enema. The enema will clean out the intestines and prevent constipation after surgery.

Anesthesia

General anesthesia will be used. It will block any pain and keep you asleep through the surgery.

Description of the Procedure

An incision shaped like a boomerang will be made on the upper part of the abdomen. The old liver will be removed. Portions of major blood vessels will be left in place. The new liver will be inserted and attached to the blood vessels and bile ducts. To help with bile drainage, a tube will also be inserted into the bile duct during surgery. The area will be closed with stitches.

Immediately After Procedure

You will be closely monitored in the intensive care unit (ICU) and will have the following devices:
  • Breathing tube until you can breathe on your own
  • IV fluids and medication
  • Bladder catheter to drain urine

How Long Will It Take?

Several hours

How Much Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia will prevent pain during the surgery. You will have pain while recovering. Your doctor will give you pain medication.

Average Hospital Stay

This surgery is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is several weeks. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if you show signs of rejecting the new liver or have other problems.

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital
While you are recovering at the hospital, you will:
  • Receive fluids and nutrition through an IV—You will slowly transition to eating.
  • Breathe deeply and cough 10-20 times every hour—This will help your lungs work better after surgery.
  • Take immunosuppressive drugs—You will need to take these for the rest of your life. These drugs reduce the chance that your body will reject the new liver. They also have potential side effects, like infection and cancer. Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor.
At Home
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
  • Take proper care of the incision site. This will help to prevent an infection.
  • Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
  • Work with a physical therapist. Exercises will help you to regain strength.
  • Monitor your temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and weight.
  • Follow a special diet. This diet will help to prevent water retention and to maintain a normal weight and blood pressure.
  • Take medications as advised by your doctor.
Recovery time varies. It depends, in part, on your health before the transplant.
 

Call Your Doctor

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
 

RESOURCES

American Liver Foundation
http://www.liverfoundation.org

United Network for Organ Sharing
http://www.transplantliving.org

 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Liver Foundation
http://www.liver.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

 

References


Gee I, Alexander G. Liver transplantation for hepatitis C virus related liver disease. Postgrad Med J. 2005;81:765-771.


Liu CL, Fan ST. Adult-to-adult live-donor liver transplantation: the current status. J Hepatobiliary Pancreat Surg. 2006;13:110-116.


Liver transplant. American Liver Foundation website. Available at: http://www.liverfoundation.org/downloads/alf%5Fdownload%5F134.pdf. Accessed August 14, 2014.


Neuberger J. Developments in liver transplantation. Gut. 2004;53:759-768.


O’Grady JG. Liver tansplantation alcohol related liver disease: (deliberately) stirring a hornet’s nest! Gut. 2006;55:1529-1531.


What I need to know about liver transplantation. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/livertransplant%5Fez. Updated May 10, 2012. Accessed August 15, 2014.

 

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