This is a surgery to replace a diseased or damaged liver with a liver from a donor who has died. In some cases, a portion of the liver of a living, related donor may be used.
A liver transplant is done to treat a liver that is not working and cannot be fixed. This may be caused by:
After the transplant, most patients are able to return to normal activities in 6-12 months.
If you are planning to have liver transplant, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the surgery.
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:
The doctor will make an incision shaped like a boomerang on the upper part of the abdomen. The old liver will be removed. The doctor will leave portions of major blood vessels 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 doctor will then close the area with stitches.
You will be closely monitored in the intensive care unit (ICU) and will have the following devices:
Anesthesia will prevent pain during the surgery. You will have pain while recovering. Your doctor will give you pain medicine.
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 shows signs of rejecting the new liver or have other problems.
While you are recovering at the hospital, you will:
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Recovery time varies. It depends, in part, on your health before the transplant.
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, CALL 911.
American Liver Foundation
United Network for Organ Sharing
Canadian Liver Foundation
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/education/info/transplant/. Updated September 2007. Accessed July 21, 2009.
Liver Transplant Program and Center for Liver Disease, University of Southern California website. Available at: http://www.surgery.usc.edu/divisions/hep/index.html.
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_ez/. Updated March 2003. Accessed July 21, 2009.
Last reviewed November 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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