Liver transplantation

What is liver transplantation?

The liver is an important organ whose main function is to filter the blood circulating in the body and to produce bile, which aids in the digestion of food in the small intestine.

If the liver becomes so diseased or damaged that it can no longer regenerate, a condition known as liver failure, a transplant may be necessary to replace it with a healthy liver.

What are the main causes of liver damage?

The main causes of liver damage are:

  • Alcoholic hepatitis.
  • viral hepatitis
  • Liver cancer.
  • Cirrhosis of other origins.

What are the different types of liver transplantation?

Because donor livers are difficult to find, and there is a long waiting list for patients, a rigorous evaluation is performed to determine who is suitable for a liver transplant.

A patient is considered an ideal recipient if his or her lifespan would be shorter in the absence of a transplant and if there is at least a 50% chance that the patient will survive for five years after transplantation. The different ways in which a liver transplant can be performed are:

  • The donated liver comes from a recently deceased person with a healthy liver.
  • Living donor transplant: this type of transplant takes a portion of the liver from a living donor (healthy person) and then implants it into the patient’s liver.

Post-procedure recovery

After liver transplant surgery, the recipient patient should notice an almost instantaneous improvement from the symptoms previously caused by the diseased liver. Often, patients can return to normal activities within a matter of months, but full recovery may take much longer. A transplant patient must take immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of his or her life to prevent the body from rejecting the donor liver.

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Risks related to liver transplantation

There may be risks after liver transplant surgery, although the prognosis is good in most cases. About eight out of ten liver transplant patients live for at least another five years and many even live for more than 20 years.

The main problems related to liver transplant surgery are:

  • The donated liver is rejected by the body.
  • The donated liver does not work at first, resulting in a new transplant to be performed immediately.
  • Hemorrhage.
  • An increased risk of infection.
  • An increased risk of cancer.