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Liver transplant

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Liver transplant is a surgical technique in which the damaged liver replaced with a healthy liver of a donor. The entire liver may be removed or a portion may be substituted. We shall discuss the details of liver transplant in the following section.


Who needs liver transplant?

Liver transplant is not resorted to unless it has absolutely failed or has stopped functioning normally due to a disease or infection.

Some medical conditions that might entail liver transplant are: 

  • Chronic liver cirrhosis
  • Liver cancer
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Absence or abnormal bile ducts- Biliary atresia
  • Acute hepatic necrosis
  • Metabolic disease like Wilson’s disease
  •  Hepatic vein thrombosis


Who cannot undergo liver transplant?

Your doctor will determine your health status before performing a liver transplant. It is not recommended to the following groups of people: 

  • Suffering from cancer or undergoing cancer treatments
  • Infected with hepatitis, tuberculosis and osteomyelitis
  • Addicted to drugs, alcohol and tobacco products
  • Have an extremely weak immune system


How is the donor chosen for liver transplant?

Finding a suitable donor is not an easy task and the doctor will perform several medical tests to confirm it as an appropriate transplant.

There are two types of donors 

  • A deceased donor i.e. person who has been declared brain dead can offer his/her entire liver.
  • A living donor who is usually a family member interested in donating a part of his/her liver to the loved one. The portion of the damaged liver is replaced with the donor’s. The liver starts growing automatically in the donor and the recipient.


How is liver transplant carried out?                                 

It’s an extensive operation which is carried out under general anaesthesia. Your doctor will make an incision near your upper abdomen to access the liver. A portion of the liver will be cut or the entire liver will be detached from its original position with the transplant. The transplanted liver will be stitched with the surrounding blood vessels and bile ducts. IV lines will be on and blood transfusion is also required.


How to prepare for liver transplant?

The procedure is long. Your doctor will evaluate your health completely and advise you a plethora of tests.

They are: 

  • Blood tests- to determine compatibility with donor and to assess general health profile
  • Diagnostic tests for cancer, kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, brain and other vital organs.
  • Screening for diseases 

Financial and psychological counselling will be offered.

Once your doctor has given a go ahead, you will be put in the waiting list for liver transplant which abides certain medical regulations.


What happens during the operation?

You will be admitted in the hospital, in the operation theatre. Since you will remain absolutely sedated, you can’t sense anything.

The operation might last long for 12 hours.


What to expect after liver transplant?

You will be shifted to ICU immediately after the operation where your body’s response will be closely monitored. Breathing tubes and IV drip lines should be continued.

Once your body starts stabilizing you will be gradually shifted from ICU to a normal room. Your stay in hospital would be for 2 weeks or more.

Your doctor will prescribe you a wide range of drugs of which immunosuppression pills are vital for preventing rejection of the transplanted liver.

Recovery time would be 6-12 months. Frequent hospital visits and blood tests are must.


Risks of liver transplant
  • Bleeding and infection at operation site
  • Failure or rejection of donated liver
  • Blockage or leakage from bile ducts
  • Blockage in blood vessels to the donated liver

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: April 13, 2014