What is a liver transplant?
A liver transplant (also known as a hepatic transplant) involves the removal of damaged or diseased liver and replaced with a healthy liver from a deceased donor. Sometimes a living donor may donate part of their healthy liver if a partial liver transplant is planned.
Who benefits from having liver transplant surgery?
If the liver has been irreversibly damaged or suffered failure from infection, drugs or
alcohol, it may need to be replaced. If untreated, this can result in acute (short-term) or
chronic (long-term) liver disease, hepatitis, malnutrition, blood clotting, cirrhosis (scarring and death of the liver cells), cancer and defects in the bile ducts. These conditions in a severe form can lead to liver failure which can only be treated with liver transplant.
Liver transplant surgery is performed under general anaesthetia. An incision is made into the upper abdomen and tubes fitted to help drain any excess blood and fluid that surrounds the liver. The damaged liver is removed, and the new liver placed into the abdomen and attached to the surrounding blood vessels and bile ducts. The incision is then closed; however, some or all of the drainage tubes may be left in place to continue to drain excess fluid.
Following liver transplant surgery, you will need to stay in hospital for between 2-3 weeks. The initial stay would be in the Intensive Care Unit. You will be frequently monitored and undergo regular blood and urine tests to monitor the assimilation of the new liver in your body. Your physician will discuss how long you need to wait
before returning to your daily routine (including work and exercise), which will be a slow
build-up until you fully recover. You will be on drugs to stop the body rejecting the new liver. You will need regular follow up with your physician for the first three months following surgery. Survival rates following liver transplant surgery are around 90% for the first year, and around 75% for five years.
Liver transplant surgery carries significant risks. These include rejection of the liver,
bleeding, infection, fluid build-up, high blood pressure, leaking bile ducts, kidney damage, blood clotting, return of the original disease and cancer - among others.