A liver transplant refers to a surgical procedure that involves removing a liver that does not function properly, and replace it with a healthy liver, taken from a living or deceased donor.
The liver, being your largest internal organ, performs several crucial functions such as removing the bacteria and toxins from your blood, processing the nutrients and hormones as well as producing bile, so that the body can absorb fats and cholesterol. Liver transplant is generally kept as a treatment option for patients having significant complications because of an end-stage chronic liver disease, liver cancer or problems that cannot be treated with medications.
A patient may need a liver transplant in the following conditions:
The following pre-procedure guidelines need to be followed before undergoing a liver transplant:
A liver transplant is done by administering general anaesthesia. The surgeon will make a long incision across the abdomen, to get access to your liver. The bile ducts and the blood supply to the liver are then disconnected, after which the diseased liver will be removed. The donor liver will be then placed in your system. The bile ducts and the blood vessels will be then reattached. The surgery can take up to 12 hours, though it depends on your health situation.
Once the new liver is put into place, the surgeon stitches and then staples the incision that was made. There will be drainage tubes attached for draining away the extra fluids, which may remain attached for some days after the surgery.
Once the surgery has been performed, you will have to stay in the ICU for a few days. The doctors will monitor your health condition, looking for any possible complications. If required, a ventilator can assist you with the breathing, while a tube will be inserted through your nose in the stomach for providing you with the necessary nutrients and fluid. These things are generally removed after a few days.
Your liver function will be tested at regular intervals to analyse if the new liver is working properly or not. You will have to stay in the hospital for around 2 weeks. Once you are discharged, there will be frequent check-ups and blood tests that you have to undergo so that the doctors can understand the rate of your progress.
A liver transplant surgery carries with it some significant complications. It may be related to the surgery itself or to the medications that are required so that the body does not reject the new liver. The common risks include:
You will have to take life-long medications after the liver transplant, which will prevent your immune system from attacking the donated liver. Make sure that you have them timely and regularly. It may take you 6 months or more to recover from the surgery. It is advisable to opt for simple exercises like walking in this recuperating period. A normal and healthy diet is also important. Also, always try to maintain a healthy weight. You can consult your dietician for a food chart. Avoid alcohol, especially if your previous liver disease was alcohol-related. Do not self-drive for at least 2 months after the surgery, as the transplant procedure and the medication that you take afterwards may sometimes affect the vision and reaction time.
The cost of a liver transplant could be approximately Rs. 5,00,000 – Rs. 10,00,000.