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Recovery and Next Steps

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Recovery After Liver Transplantation

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.

Son and mother, donor and recipient of partial liver transplant
Regina Williams with her son, Paul Mladineo,
who donated part of his liver when his mother
experienced liver failure due to autoimmune
disease. "Paul and I are doing great. Our
livers are functioning perfectly," says Williams.

By three months after surgery, most patients have recovered fully and have returned to their normal activities.

After returning home, patients will need to carefully adhere to their medication regimens, and to monitor vital signs including temperature, blood pressure, and weight on a daily basis. Patients will return to the Center for frequent follow-up visits, blood work, and other testing.

Complications after Liver Transplantation

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.

Staff at the Center for Liver Disease
and Transplantation (click to enlarge image)
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
Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation
Directions
(877) liver-md
NewYork-Presbyterian/
Weill Cornell
Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation
Directions
(646) 962-liver
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