In the months, weeks, and days leading up to liver transplant surgery, it's a good idea to become familiar with what to expect afterward. The highlights below can help set expectations.
When it comes to liver transplant surgery, there are typically two approaches. Although these surgeries are very different, they both take up to 10 hours to complete. It's important to keep in mind, however, that the length of surgery can be different for every patient. That makes it important to talk to your treatment team about what you can expect for your particular situation.
Liver surgery approaches:
How to prepare for surgery:
Liver surgery begins by replacing the diseased liver with the new healthy donor liver. Because liver surgery is a major procedure, several tubes will need to be placed in your body to help you carry out certain functions during the operation and for a few days afterward.
During the removal of your liver, one of the other surgeons will check and prepare the new liver for the transplant. Once prepared, the new liver will be put in place:
The period immediately after liver transplant surgery is a very critical time for you. Your transplant team will monitor you very closely. As your condition begins to stabilize, you and your family will be taught about medications, diet, and other important issues. Most people can go home after a full week to a week and a half after their transplant, and can return to their normal, active lives within a few months.
It is important to remember that transplantation is a serious surgery with inherent risks. One of the more common complications of transplantation is rejection. However, thanks to anti-rejection medications, rejection episodes are less common and can usually be managed.
Though such medications help prevent rejection, suppression of the immune system also makes transplant recipients more likely to get infections.
As you know, liver rejection is serious. That makes taking your anti-rejection medication directly as prescribed serious as well. Make sure you take the same anti-rejection medicine each time, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
The medications you take to prevent liver rejection work by slowing down your body's immune system. While they help to prevent rejection of your new liver transplant, they also lower your body's ability to fight infections.
To help lower the risk for infection, you may be prescribed preventive medications. Because your risk for infection will go down over time, your transplant team may decide to lower the amount or dose of preventive medications that you require.
Infections can become very serious and can even lead to death if left untreated.