A liver transplant is a surgical procedure performed to remove a damaged or failed liver and replace it with a healthy liver. Liver transplant is usually only performed for severe, end-stage chronic liver disease, which can no longer be treated by other treatment options. The liver can be transplanted from a deceased donor with a healthy liver or a live donor, wherein a part of the liver is transplanted. The liver can regenerate fairly quickly in the live donor and the recipient. A single donated liver may even be used for two recipients.
The long-term success rates and survival rates following a liver transplant depend on the patient’s condition. Usually, around 75% of people who undergo liver transplants live for at least 5 years.
Why is a liver transplant done?
Liver transplant is usually performed for chronic liver failure, which may be a result of various conditions, the most common cause being liver cirrhosis (liver scarring).
Most common causes of liver cirrhosis leading to liver failure, requiring liver transplant include:
- Hepatitis B and C caused by Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C virus (HCV), respectively
- Alcoholic liver disease, due to chronic excessive alcohol consumption
- Fatty liver disease (accumulation of fat in the liver, causing inflammation and damage of the liver cells)
- Genetic disorders that affect the liver, such as hemochromatosis (excessive iron build-up in the liver) and Wilson disease (excessive copper buildup in the liver)
- Diseases of the bile ducts (the tubes that carry bile away from the liver and biliary atresia (commonly seen in children)
- Liver cancers
What happens before a liver transplant?
A patient requiring a liver transplant is placed on a waiting list, which is decided by a model of end-stage liver disease (MELD) score. This score is based on blood tests, such as:
- The level of creatinine, indicating kidneys function
- Checking the international normalized ratio (INR), which shows the ability of the liver to synthesize blood-clotting proteins
The blood tests are repeated regularly, and the MELD score is updated accordingly. There is also a score for children under the age of 12 years, called pediatric end-stage liver disease score. The higher the MELD score, the sicker is the patient; hence, they are placed higher on the list. The success of transplant surgery also depends on a good match with a suitable donor; so, the wait time would also depend on the patient’s body size and blood type, which should match the donor.
If two people with the same MELD scores qualify for a liver transplant and have a suitable match, the person who has been on the waiting list for longer would most likely receive the transplant sooner. A person with acute liver failure may be placed close to the top of the list because they have a high risk of facing death sooner. Though the waiting time for a liver transplant may be a long process, once a match is found, the surgery is coordinated quite fast.
Specific tests, procedures, and consultations advised before the surgery:
- Laboratory tests: Blood and urine tests to assess the health of the organs
- Radiological tests: Ultrasound, MRI, CT of the liver
- Cardiac test: To assess heart health
- General health exam: To assess overall health and rule out other
- Diet and nutrition consultation with dietitians to ensure liver and body health before and after surgery
- Psychological support to assess the mental health of the patient and help them cope with their chronic illness
- Deaddiction counseling: To help patients quit alcohol, drug, or tobacco
- Financial counseling to help patients and their family understand the cost of surgery and postoperative care
What happens after a liver transplant?
The patient can expect the following after liver transplant surgery:
- Patients are usually required to stay in the intensive care unit (ICU) for a few days after surgery. The patient is closely monitored to ensure their vitals are stable, and there are no postoperative complications.
- Patients are usually discharged after 7 to 10 days after surgery.
- Patients are required to follow-up regularly with the surgeon as advised.
- Patients are usually prescribed certain medications, which may have to be taken for life, such as immunosuppressants that prevent the immune system from attacking the transplanted liver.
- Patients are advised on an appropriate diet and nutrition plan to ensure good liver and overall body health.
- Patients would be provided with rehabilitation services to help them return to their daily activities.
- Most patients can resume normal activities, including exercise and return to work, a few months following surgery and after consulting with the doctor.
- Complete recovery after transplant surgery can take 6 months or longer. Recovery usually depends on how sick the patient was before liver transplant surgery.
What are the complications of liver transplant surgery?
Liver transplant surgery has a significant risk of complications, such as:
Latest Healthy Living News
Daily Health News
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top How Successful Is a Liver Transplant? Related Articles
Nonalcoholic and Alcoholic Fatty Liver DiseaseYou can treat fatty liver disease with diet and exercise. Learn the signs and symptoms of fatty liver disease, whether it is alcoholic or nonalcoholic in origin. Find out what causes fatty liver disease, along with remedies and prevention tips.
Get to Know Your Liver QuizDo you know the symptoms of liver disease? What is hepatitis? Take this quiz to learn about your liver and how to keep it healthy.
14 Best and Worst Foods for Your LiverGet some simple diet tips to keep your liver healthy, including the best veggies to keep disease away and some snacks you'll want to avoid.
Liver Damage CausesAlcohol and acetaminophen are well-known liver dangers, but what else can be harmful? WebMD says some of them may surprise you.
How Long Does a Liver Biopsy Procedure Take?A liver biopsy is a safe and quick procedure that takes around five minutes to complete. You may, however, be asked to lie on the bed for two hours after the procedure and take it easy for the next 24 hours.
How Serious Is a Liver Biopsy?A liver biopsy can be performed in an outpatient setting. In the hands of an experienced doctor, it rarely produces complications. Mild pain in the upper right abdomen that goes away within a few hours is the most common complication of a liver biopsy.
Liver (Anatomy and Function)The liver is the largest gland and organ in the body. There are a variety of liver diseases caused by liver inflammation, scarring of the liver, infection of the liver, gallstones, cancer, toxins, genetic diseases, and blood flow problems. Symptoms of liver disease generally do not occur until the liver disease is advanced. Some symptoms of liver disease include jaundice, nausea and vomiting, easy bruising, bleeding excessively, fatigue, weakness, weight loss, shortness of breath, leg swelling, impotence, and confusion. Treatment of diseases of the liver depends on the cause.
Liver CancerLiver cancer is cancer of the liver cells (hepatocellular carcinoma) or of the ducts in the liver (cholangiocarcinoma). Liver cancer often arises due to liver damage, cirrhosis (scarring) caused by alcohol use/abuse, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C. Liver cancer may not cause any symptoms. Liver cancer is diagnosed with blood tests, imaging tests, and a liver biopsy. Treatment for liver cancer may include surgery, ablation, embolization, radiation, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy.
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.
Liver PictureFront View of the Liver. The liver is a large, meaty organ that sits on the right side of the belly. See a picture of the Liver and learn more about the health topic.
Sandimmune (cyclosporine)Sandimmune (cyclosporine) is used with adrenal corticosteroids to prevent organ rejection after a kidney, liver, or heart transplant surgery. Sandimmune is also used to treat people with severe rheumatoid arthritis or severe psoriasis. Side effects of Sandimmune include renal dysfunction, tremor, hirsutism, hypertension, and gum hyperplasia.
Is There a Cure for Cirrhosis of the Liver?
Liver cirrhosis results from disease- or chemical-induced injury to the liver over a sustained period. The injury kills liver cells, and your body attempts to rebuild the damage. In the process, the existing cells are inflamed and scar tissue results, compromising the structure of the liver and hampering its function.