What is a liver transplant?


If you have a liver disease and other treatment options have failed other treatment options, a liver transplant may be the next best option for you. You should know that liver transplants have one of the highest survival rates. With proper medical care and lifestyle changes, your body can benefit from a new liver with little complications.

What is a liver transplant?

A liver transplant is a medical procedure used to replace your failed liver with a new and healthy liver from another person called a donor. The liver can be transferred as a whole or partially from a deceased or live person.

There are three operations involved in a liver transplant: the donor operation, the back table operation, and the recipient operation. Your medical team will coordinate these operations.

The donor operation

The donor operation is to remove the healthy liver from the donor. The operation will get the donor liver from two possible sources.

  • The liver may come from a donor who recently passed away. The family of the deceased donor made the decision to donate all of the working organs. In this case, it’s important to keep the organs functional until it is removed. The donor is put on a breathing machine to continue to supply oxygen to the healthy organs. This operation will be a multi-organ operation in which the kidneys, heart and lungs and, on occasion, the pancreas, small bowel, corneas, skin, and bones are also removed.
  • The liver can also come from a living donor. This operation involves organ transplant that involves a section of liver that is removed from a living donor and transplanted into the patient. Since liver has an inherent capacity to regenerate both the transplanted section and the remaining section of the donor’s liver grow back to a normal liver.

The back table operation

The back table operation is performed at the recipient’s hospital to make any necessary modifications to the donor’s liver such as reducing the liver size. This usually performed right before the recipient operation.

The recipient operation

The recipient operation is the final step to a liver transplant. This is when the failed liver is replaced with the healthy liver from the donor. You will be put under anesthesia to reduce pain and given medication to prevent too much blood loss. The surgeon will make a cut in your abdomen to replace the liver. They will also put some tubes to help you carry out certain body function after the operation.

Who needs a liver transplant?

A liver transplant is needed when a liver is unable to perform essential functions. These functions include filtering the blood of toxins, producing bile to help with digestion and storing energy as sugars for later use. Liver failure can occur in any person at any age. Liver failure has many causes such as excessive alcohol use, hepatitis, cirrhosis, paracetamol overdose, and other liver diseases.

Over the last two decades, the number of people who require a liver transplant has increased by 90%, but the number of available donations has remained the same.

Like many transplants, the demand is bigger than the supply. You need to meet many requirements to have a liver transplant. Here are some that you may expect:

  • You have to experience symptoms that majorly affect your quality of life.
  • You need to have a high survival rate assessment after the transplant.
  • You need to pass all physical and mental tests.
  • You need to be financially ready for the transplant.
  • There needs to be an available donor.

How to prepare for a liver transplant?

Before going into the transplant, you need to prepare your mind and body for it. You can get into the transplant mindset and learn what might happen after the transplant. Think about your life before the transplant and how it will change afterward.

While you are on the waiting list, you need to sort out your financial and paperwork before the transplant. Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating healthily and take regular exercise.

It’s a good idea to let your family know when the operation happens so they can arrange to take care of you after the transplant is finished.

What happens after a liver transplant?

It is estimated that after the surgery, around 85 out of 100 people live for at least one year and 65 out of 100 live for five years or more.

Once the liver is transplanted, the body often treats it as a foreign tissue and will attack the new liver. This is called a graft rejection and may cause the newly transplanted organ to be completely damaged and destroyed. To prevent this, there are several drugs called immunosuppressant. A liver transplant patient needs to take these drugs lifelong to prevent rejection of their new liver.

Besides rejection, there are several other issues you should know after a liver transplant.

  • Infections. Like many operations, there is a high risk of infection after the operation. Your doctor might give you antibiotics and/or antifungal medication to prevent infection.
  • Biliary conditions. This refers to conditions related to the bile duct, such as obstruction or leaking of bile fluid.
  • Kidney failure. There is a chance that the immunosuppressant you take can lead to kidney failure. Your doctor will monitor your kidney function closely after surgery.
  • Graft failure. The new liver may not work properly after the transplant. If this happens, you might need a new liver as soon as possible. Meanwhile, your doctor will give you medication to control the problem.
  • Skin cancer. Your skin will be more sensitive to the sun. It is important to always use sunscreen and protective clothing before going outdoors.

In addition, there is also a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease after transplant. A healthy diet and regular exercise may help normalize life after a liver transplant.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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