Liver Transplant Surgery

Exceptional Care and Advanced Surgical Techniques for Liver Transplant

Loyola Medicine provides comprehensive, multidisciplinary care for patients with end-stage liver disease and failure whose best medical option is a liver transplant. 

Liver transplant surgery removes a damaged or diseased liver and replaces it with a healthy donor liver. Qualifying for a liver transplant is an extensive process and includes a detailed evaluation, a search for a donor liver, the transplant surgery and a recovery period. Liver transplant surgery may be a life-saving treatment for individuals with end-stage liver failure when other medications and surgical procedures do not work to treat your condition. 

We understand that if you are considering a liver transplant, you have endured much because of your condition and want your life to return to normal. Loyola’s expert transplant team will provide compassionate care and the most advanced treatment options available.

Why Choose Loyola for Liver Transplant Surgery?

Loyola’s Transplant Center has the medical expertise and technological resources to care for the most difficult conditions, whether you need a liver or a multi-organ transplant. Loyola’s liver program provides a full range of services for acute liver failure patients of all ages as they prepare for a liver transplant.

Loyola’s board-certified transplant surgeons are widely regarded in both traditional and minimally invasive surgery. Our liver transplant patient- and graft-survival rates exceed national standards at the one- and three-month benchmarks. We use state-of-the-art minimally invasive surgery for living liver donation, which speeds recovery for donors. In addition, our infectious disease team works closely with donors and recipients to ensure that the transferred tissue is as healthy as possible. 

As a world-class academic medical center, Loyola’s doctors perform and teach the latest surgical techniques and leading-edge medical care for end-stage liver disease. Our skilled and compassionate nurse coordinators work closely with transplant patients, providing support and answering your questions—not only before surgery, but afterward as well.

What are the Different Types of Liver Transplants?

Transplant patients can receive livers from living and deceased organ donors. Loyola offers several types of liver transplants; your transplant team will recommend the right one for you.

  • Deceased donor — When a liver disease patient can’t find a suitable living donor, a match can occur through a deceased donor. A patient is placed on the national transplant list maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). Your wait time will depend on many factors, including your medical urgency, compatibility to the donor and geography (organs are matched within the same region whenever possible).     
  • Living donor — Liver grafts from a healthy living donor, whether from a family member, friend or someone you don’t know, are the best option for a liver transplant because they tend to have the best outcomes. Learn more about our living liver donor program.

 

What to Expect with Liver Transplant Surgery

Once a liver becomes available, your medical team will quickly make the arrangements for your surgery and hospital stay. Your nurse coordinator will inform you and your family about where to go and when to arrive. You will undergo a few final tests for infection, fever and other conditions.

In the operating room, you will receive general anesthesia and be set up for an IV. You will have a breathing tube during the operation and be put on a Foley catheter to manage urine production. The surgery will last about five to 10 hours. The transplanted liver will be placed in your abdomen and your curved incision will be about eight inches long.

Ongoing Support and Treatment After Liver Transplant Surgery

Your Loyola transplant team will monitor you very closely after surgery. You will need to do some deep breathing exercises and coughing to help prevent pulmonary complications. If needed, physical therapists will work with you to help you get up and walking. You will have a catheter for a few days to help your bladder recover from transplant surgery. Most recipients go home about a week or two after surgery.

Our medical staff will send you home with medication. Before your surgery, you will be given a strict schedule for immunosuppressive medication which is very important to follow. You will need to take these medications for the rest of your life to prevent your body from rejecting the new organ. We encourage you to participate in our support group, which will help you during your recovery.

You will be instructed not to lift anything more than 15 pounds for the first four weeks, and nothing heavier than 30 pounds for another 12 weeks. After your discharge from the hospital, you should walk every day and stay active. Call your nurse coordinator right away if you develop these signs of organ rejection:

  • Abdominal tenderness or swelling    
  • Dark urine
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Itching
  • Jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin due to bile buildup in the blood)
  • Nausea
  • Wound drainage

Liver recipients are followed quite closely during the first year after transplant surgery with frequent labs, liver function tests, clinic visits and liver biopsies, as needed, to help identify any signs of rejection. If you are from out of town, you will be asked to remain in the area for three months after surgery. For the first two months after your surgery, you will have lab work twice a week. Then you will have weekly lab visits for the next six months. 

Visits with your hepatologist will become less frequent, and your care team will gradually transition your care to your primary care doctor. Eventually you will only need to see your hepatologist once a year. However, your transplant care team is your partner for life and is available around the clock should you have a question or concern. Please call us at 708-327-4TXP/708-327-4897.

To learn more, read our liver transplant frequently asked questions.

What are the Risks of Liver Transplant Surgery?

Your Loyola transplant team will discuss the risks of surgery with you prior to your procedure. Transplant surgery does carry risk and your Loyola transplant team will do everything possible to minimize these risks:

Your highly skilled Loyola transplant surgeon will work to reduce the risk of complications during and after your surgery.