Liver Transplant; Surgery, Criteria, Recovery & Life Expectancy

What to expect?

If your doctor recommended a liver transplant and you already have a donor, you might come across these recommendations to prepare for surgery:

  • You will be asked to bring several studies to make sure that your life is not at risk during the procedure
  • You might need to suspend some medications that increase the risk of bleeding during surgery. Your doctor will provide the complete list.
  • Make sure that you’re taking your medications as instructed by your doctor and bring all of them with you to the hospital
  • You may need a special diet the day before your liver transplant, and you should not drink or eat anything the morning of the procedure

When you’re admitted to the preparation room, you will be asked to sign consent forms and get a complete physical exam and some basic testing. The anesthesiologist will visit you and administer general anesthesia.

During liver transplant surgery, the procedure includes the following steps:

  • The surgeon will make an incision in the abdomen, cutting muscle and fatty tissue to reveal your liver
  • After locating the diseased liver, the blood flow and bile ducts will be blocked. Then, arteries, veins, and bile ducts will be temporarily cut.
  • The structures that hold the liver in place will be cut off, and the diseased organ will be removed from the abdominal cavity.
  • The healthy donor liver will be introduced, and the blood vessels and bile ducts will be reattached.
  • The surgeons will close the incision layer by layer (peritoneum, fatty tissue, muscle, and skin)

These five steps take a long time to complete, and liver transplant surgery usually lasts around 10 hours. Some cases are more complex and require extra time, while others are easier and may require only 8 hours.

Written by Martin Davis