Recovery and Next Steps

After liver transplantation, patients will initially be monitored in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). When ready, patients are transferred to regular rooms to complete their recuperation. Most patients are able to return home in a week to 12 days.

Complications

Liver transplant recipients must take medications to help the new liver function smoothly and to prevent organ rejection. Immunosuppressant medications have many side effects, including increased risk of infection. Other risks after liver transplantation include:

  • bleeding at the anastomosis (the place where the blood vessels from donor and recipient liver were joined);
  • hepatic artery thrombosis (a clot in the liver artery);
  • bile duct leaks, which can cause infection; and
  • organ rejection.

Organ Rejection

Even with immunosuppression, the body's immune system can recognize the new liver as a foreign invader and develop immune cells, called lymphocytes, to attack it. Many patients experience some degree of organ rejection, especially within the first three to six months after transplantation. This is usually easily reversed with medications. Patients are closely monitored after transplant surgery so that warning signs of rejection can be detected early.

Infection

The immunosuppressant medications used to prevent organ rejection interfere with patients' natural immunity and render patients more susceptible to infections. Patients may need to take antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal medications in order to prevent harmful infections from developing. Patients also need to take common-sense steps to preventing infections.

Hepatitis Recurrence

Patients who had hepatitis B or C before transplantation can experience recurrence of the virus after surgery. Regular blood tests and liver biopsies will be done in order to screen for recurrence, which is treatable by medications if it occurs.

Contact

NewYork-Presbyterian/
Columbia University Medical Center

Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation
Phone: 877-LIVER-MD (877-548-3763)

NewYork-Presbyterian/
Weill Cornell Medical Center

Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation
Phone: 646-962-LIVER (646-962-5483)

 

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