After Liver Transplant Surgery
Dedicated to Success
Living with a transplanted liver takes dedication. Your care partner plays an important role in your success. A care partner is a family member or friend who will support you in the process of gaining strength and living healthfully after your transplant. During your hospitalization, we recommend your care partner be with you during daytime hours so that you both can receive the necessary information about your continued care.
After surgery, you will be is transferred to the surgical immediate or intensive care unit. Gradually, you and your care partner will practice administering necessary medications under the close supervision of the transplant pharmacist, hepatologist and surgeon. This prepares you to handle taking your medications properly at home.
You could be in the hospital from a week to upwards of six weeks, depending on how healthy you were before surgery, and how well your body is responding to the transplanted liver. If you don’t live in San Diego County, you will need to plan for where you and your care partner will be living at least six weeks after surgery.
Practicing Good Care
Before being discharged, the transplant team will help you understand what you will need to do after liver transplantation. You will receive information on:
- Follow-up clinic check-ups (You will be coming to the hospital or clinic four times per week for the first 3 months)
- When to call for emergencies
- Lab work and other tests that will need to be regularly taken
- Medications, how/when to take them, and observing for side-effects
- Monitoring vital signs for indication of rejection or infection
- Nutrition and foods that can aid your recovery, or hurt your recovery
- Daily exercise routine to build strength and avoid muscle weakness, as well as activities to avoid.
- Lifelong commitment to staying drug and alcohol free
- Illness that requires emergency-room treatment or hospitalization
We encourage you to get up and out of bed as soon as you can. Most liver transplant recipients can return to a normal or near-normal existence and participate in fairly vigorous physical exercise six to 12 months after successful surgery.
Preventing Rejection and Infection
Following your transplant surgery you will need to take medications to prevent organ rejection and to fight infection. Read more about transplant medications.
Report the following to your doctor:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increased pain, excessive bleeding or discharge from the insertion site
- Cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or severe nausea or vomiting
- Cough that produces a yellowish or greenish substance
- Prolonged nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Inability to take prescribed medication
- Rash or other skin changes
- Pain, burning, urgency, frequency of urination or persistent bleeding in the urine
People who are well one year after a liver transplant have an excellent chance at long-term survival. Heart disease and cancer are the most common diseases that can result in death after transplant besides recurrent liver disease.
Recurrence of Liver Disease in Transplanted Liver
If autoimmune hepatitis, hepatitis B or C viruses caused the original liver disease, then recurrence is possible. Hepatitis B reoccurs in a very small percentage of people due to improved medication control and prevention. Hepatitis C reoccurs in everyone whose original liver disease was caused by hepatitis C if there are measurable viruses in the blood at the time of transplant. For other types of liver disease, recurrence is less likely, but is still a possibility unless it was a genetic disease that was cured by the liver transplantation.
Living Well, Finding Support
Liver transplantation is a complicated procedure. More than that, the underlying liver disease or organ failure, and the care involved after transplantation is physically, emotionally, financially and every other way - challenging. UC San Diego Health System Liver Transplant Program is acutely aware of this, and of the kinds of support that make transplantation successful. More and more people are long-term survivors following liver transplantation.
Liver Transplant Resources
For patient education classes, information on vaccines you will need after transplant, support groups and other resources go to Liver Transplant Resources