A liver transplant is a surgery that removes
a liver which no longer functions properly and replaces it with a healthy one
from a donor. Your liver is the largest internal organ in your body, playing a
very important role in your life. Its functions involve:
- Removing bacteria and toxins from the blood
- Preventing infection and regulating immune responses
- Processing nutrients, medications, and hormones
- Producing bile, which helps the body absorb fats, cholesterol, and fat-soluble vitamins
- Making proteins that help the blood clot
If you are with liver failure, a liver transplant can save your life.
According to statistics, about 7,100 liver transplants were performed in the United States in 2015. Among these, almost 600 patients are 17 years old or younger.
A liver transplant is a treatment option
for people with liver failure and for some people with liver cancer. Liver
failure may happen quickly (acute liver failure) or over a longer period of
time (chronic liver failure). A liver transplant can treat both of them, but it
is more often used to treat chronic liver failure.
A number of conditions may lead to chronic
liver failure, among which cirrhosis is the most frequently cited reason for a
Conditions that may result in cirrhosis requiring a liver transplant involve:
- Hepatitis B and C
- Alcoholic liver disease
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- Genetic diseases affecting the liver (including hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease).
- Diseases that affect the bile ducts
Besides, liver transplant is also used to treat certain cancers originating in the liver.
Not only does liver transplant carry a risk of complications itself, but also the drugs used to prevent rejection of the donor’s liver have side effects.
The surgery may lead to complications such
- Bile duct complications, including bile duct leaks or shrinking of
the bile ducts
- Blood clots
- Failure of donated liver
- Rejection of donated liver
- Mental confusion or seizures
Furthermore, liver disease may recur in the
Anti-rejection medication may cause many
side effects, including:
- Bone thinning
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
These medicines also increase your risk of
infection, for they work by suppressing your immune system.
If your doctor recommends a liver transplant, you should get prepared by choosing a transplant center and completing the evaluation.
Choosing a transplant center
When you are considering transplants, you
may want to:
- Learn about the number and type of transplants the center performs
- Ask about the transplant center’s liver transplant survival rates.
- Compare transplant center statistics through the database maintained
by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients.
- Understand the costs that will be incurred before, during and after
- Consider additional services provided by the transplant center.
- Assess the center’s commitment to keeping up with the latest
transplant technology and techniques.
Evaluation should be done to determine
- Are healthy enough to have surgery and tolerate lifelong
- Have any medical conditions that would interfere with transplant
- Are willing and able to take medications as directed and follow the
suggestions of the transplant team.
You may need to undergo the following tests, procedures, and consultations:
- Laboratory tests
- Imaging tests
- Heart tests
- A general health exam
- Nutrition counseling with dietitians
- Psychological evaluation
- Meetings with social workers
- Addiction counseling
- Financial counseling
After these, the transplant center’s
selection committee will make a decision on whether you are able to have
a transplant and whether a liver transplant is best for you. If you are
selected, you will be placed on the liver transplant waiting list.
After the surgery
After the liver transplant, you can expect
- Possibly stay in the intensive care unit for a few days
- Spend 5 to 10 days in the hospital
- Have frequent checkups as you continue recovering at home
- Take medications for the rest of your life
Generally, about 70 in every 100 people who undergo a liver transplant can live for at least five years. However, whether the surgery will be successful and how long you can survive after it depends on your own situation.
Keyword: liver transplant.