Liver transplant (LT) simply means replacing a diseased liver with a healthy one. The new liver may be taken from a brain-dead person (cadaver) or given by a living relative.
The life expectancy post the LT depends on many variables. These include the initial reason for the transplant, age, co-morbidities, and response to the drugs the person is put on post-transplant.
On average, most people who receive LT live for more than 10 years. Many may live for up to 20 years or more after the transplant.
A study says 90% of people with transplant survive for at least 1 year, and 70% of people may live for at least 5 years after transplant. This is often accompanied by a good quality of life, resumption of schooling and jobs, and reduced hospitalization episodes as compared to those who do not undergo the procedure.
What does the liver do?
Next to the skin, the liver is the largest organ in the human body. It controls the way the body breaks down food, filters out toxins, and has a role in body detox. It helps to manage several things such as:
Why does one require a liver transplant?
The wonderful thing about the liver is it can recover by itself from a lot of damage. However, when the damage is too much, the liver will fail. Once a person has signs of liver failure, they may experience the following:
- Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
- Hand tremors
- Encephalopathy (comatose state)
- Muscle loss
- Itching all over the body
- Poor blood clotting
- Swelling over the legs
- Ascites (abnormal fluid buildup in the tummy)
- Bleeding from the esophagus (gullet), stomach, or rectum
At one point, there will be a stage when no treatment can help the liver function properly. When the liver disease reaches a certain stage, there is no option but to get a replacement. This is called liver transplant (LT), and it is the only way to save a person’s life.
When will the doctor suggest a liver transplant?
When the liver gets severely damaged with scarring, it cannot heal itself. This stage is called cirrhosis. When liver disease begins to get worse, a person may show signs such as:
- Liver failure: Liver fails when it is not able to do the normal functions that are needed to keep a person alive.
- High blood pressure in the portal vein: Scarring in the liver stops blood from flowing through it normally. It leads to pressure buildup in the blood of the portal vein (the vein that feeds the liver). It manifests as blood-filled vomit and blood in stools.
- Hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer): It can develop within a scarred liver.
A primary care doctor or a specialist who treats stomach problems (gastroenterologists) will refer the patient for a transplant evaluation to a major medical center.
What are the complications?
The doctors will monitor the patient closely to help prevent and treat these conditions that may occur after liver transplant (LT) such as:
- Transplant rejection
- Recurrence of your liver disease
- Cancer (especially skin cancer) due to drugs you are put on after the transplant
- Other complications include:
- Infections (hepatitis B, C, and E; Ebstein–Barr virus)
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Bones thinning
- Excessive weight gain
The patient will need to follow-up with their medical team for the rest of their life. However, they might require less frequent visits after a couple of years.
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Trotter JF. Liver transplantation around the world. Curr Opin Organ Transplant 2017;22(2):123e7. https://doi.org/10.1097/MOT.0000000000000392. PMID: 28151809.
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Cirrhosis (Liver)Cirrhosis of the liver refers to a disease in which normal liver cells are replaced by scar tissue caused by alcohol and viral hepatitis B and C. This disease leads to abnormalities in the liver's ability to handle toxins and blood flow, causing internal bleeding, kidney failure, mental confusion, coma, body fluid accumulation, and frequent infections.
Symptoms include yellowing of the skin (jaundice), itching, and fatigue.
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Common Medical Abbreviations & Terms
Doctors, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals use abbreviations, acronyms, and other terminology for instructions and information in regard to a patient's health condition, prescription drugs they are to take, or medical procedures that have been ordered. There is no approved this list of common medical abbreviations, acronyms, and terminology used by doctors and other health- care professionals. You can use this list of medical abbreviations and acronyms written by our doctors the next time you can't understand what is on your prescription package, blood test results, or medical procedure orders. Examples include:
- ANED: Alive no evidence of disease. The patient arrived in the ER alive with no evidence of disease.
- ARF: Acute renal (kidney) failure
- cap: Capsule.
- CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure. A treatment for sleep apnea.
- DJD: Degenerative joint disease. Another term for osteoarthritis.
- DM: Diabetes mellitus. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- HA: Headache
- IBD: Inflammatory bowel disease. A name for two disorders of the gastrointestinal (BI) tract, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
- JT: Joint
- N/V: Nausea or vomiting.
- p.o.: By mouth. From the Latin terminology per os.
- q.i.d.: Four times daily. As in taking a medicine four times daily.
- RA: Rheumatoid arthritis
- SOB: Shortness of breath.
- T: Temperature. Temperature is recorded as part of the physical examination. It is one of the "vital signs."
cordycepsCordyceps is considered an adaptogen, a substance that is believed to help people adapt to and manage stress, anxiety, and fatigue, and is believed to enhance overall health, kidney and liver function, athletic performance, and cognitive abilities. Cordyceps is believed to have immune-boosting, antitumor, and antioxidant properties and appears to also reduce blood glucose levels and slow blood clotting process. Cordyceps is generally safe for most adults. Rare, mild side effects include stomach discomfort, diarrhea, and constipation. Do not take cordyceps if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Doptelet (avatrombopag)Doptelet is a prescription medicine used to treat low blood platelet counts in adults with long-lasting (chronic) liver disease (CLD) or chronic immune thrombocytopenia (ITP). Serious side effects of Doptelet include blood clots.
Drug-Induced Liver DiseaseDrug-induced liver diseases are diseases of the liver that are caused by physician-prescribed medications, OTC medications, vitamins, hormones, herbs, illicit (recreational) drugs, and environmental toxins. Read about the signs and symptoms of drug-induced liver disease like hepatitis (inflammation of the liver cells), liver disease treatment, and types.
Fatty Liver (NASH)Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NASH occurs due to the accumulation of abnormal amounts of fat within the liver. Fatty liver most likely caused by obesity and diabetes. Symptoms of fatty liver disease are primarily the complications of cirrhosis of the liver; and may include mental changes, liver cancer, the accumulation of fluid in the body (ascites, edema), and gastrointestinal bleeding. Treatment for fatty liver includes avoiding certain foods and alcohol. Exercise, weight loss, bariatric surgery, and liver transplantation are treatments for fatty liver disease.
fresh frozen plasmaFresh frozen plasma is administered as an intravenous transfusion based on ABO blood group compatibility. The uses of fresh frozen plasma include managing and preventing bleeding, replacement of coagulation factors, and plasma exchange in adults with thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP). Common side effects of fresh frozen plasma include transfusion-transmitted infections and septic reactions, hemolytic transfusion reactions that destroy red blood cells, feverish (febrile) non-hemolytic reactions, transfusion related acute lung injury (TRALI), transfusion-associated graft-versus-host disease (TA-GVHD), transfusion-associated circulatory overload (TACO), and allergic reactions.
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hepatitis B vaccineHepatitis B vaccine is an inactivated viral vaccine administered intramuscularly to provide protection against infection from all subtypes of hepatitis B virus. Common side effects of hepatitis B vaccine include injection site reactions, weakness, fatigue, headache, dizziness, feeling unwell (malaise), fever, muscle pain (myalgia), nausea, diarrhea, upper respiratory infection, and throat inflammation (pharyngitis). Consult your doctor before receiving a hepatitis B vaccine if pregnant or breastfeeding.
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Liver DiseaseLiver disease can be cause by a variety of things including infection (hepatitis), diseases, for example, gallstones, high cholesterol or triglycerides, blood flow obstruction to the liver, and toxins (medications and chemicals). Symptoms of liver disease depends upon the cause and may include nausea, vomiting, upper right abdominal pain, and jaundice. Treatment depends upon the cause of the liver disease.
Liver Disease QuizWhat is liver disease? Take the Liver Disease Quiz and test your knowledge about this organ and its function.
What Is Microsporidiosis?Microsporidiosis is an infection caused by the microsporidia parasite. The disease is uncommon in people with normal immune systems. Symptoms in people with immune deficiency include diarrhea, malabsorption, gallbladder disease, cough, labored breathing, urinary tract infection, bowel perforation and keratoconjunctivitis. Microsporidiosis treatment depends on the site of infection and the species of microsporidia involved.
mycophenolateMycophenolate is an immunosuppressant medication used to prevent rejection of transplant organs (heart, kidney, and liver). Common side effects of mycophenolate include high or low blood pressure (hypertension or hypotension), exacerbation of hypertension, rapid heart rate (tachycardia), swelling (edema), lower extremity edema, peripheral edema, blood clot formation (thrombosis), inflammation of the vein (phlebitis), high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol level in the blood (hypercholesterolemia), high level of blood fats (hyperlipidemia), high uric acid level in the blood (hyperuricemia), high or low blood potassium levels (hyperkalemia/hypokalemia), and others. Mycophenolate can cause fetal harm and should not be used in pregnant women. Do not use if breastfeeding.
Tylenol Liver DamageTylenol liver damage (acetaminophen) can occur from accidentally ingesting too much acetaminophen, or intentionally. Signs and symptoms of acetaminophen-induced liver damage may include:
- kidney failure,
- bleeding disorders,
- coma, and
What Does it Mean If You Have Urobilinogen in Your Urine?Urobilinogen is a substance that is produced when bilirubin, a waste product produced by the breakdown of red blood cells, is processed in the liver and released into the intestine. Excess urobilinogen in urine may indicate liver diseases, such as viral hepatitis, cirrhosis, or liver damage. It is caused by drugs, toxic substances, or conditions associated with increased red blood cell destruction (hemolytic anemia). In a person with low urine urobilinogen and/or signs of liver dysfunction, it can be indicative of hepatic or biliary obstruction.