A liver transplant is a surgical procedure done to replace the diseased liver with a healthy one. During this process, either a part of a liver or whole liver is transplanted. The liver or a part of it may come from a brain-dead organ donor or a healthy living donor.
The liver is the only organ of the human body that can regenerate. The liver of the donor will soon grow back to normal size post-surgery. The part of the liver which is received as a new liver will also grow to normal size within few weeks.
Various acute and chronic ailments may affect the functioning of the liver and may require liver transplants. It is usually offered to patients with end-stage liver disease which may not respond to other treatments. Some of the similar conditions are listed below:
Mainly there are two ways a liver transplant is carried out.
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Before undergoing this procedure, you may need to undergo rigorous evaluation, which includes:
There are more people in need of a liver transplant than the liver donated. Hence, the waiting list is long in India. While you are on the waiting list, your doctor will start the other treatment and plan a treatment that will keep you in stable condition and prepare you for your upcoming transplant procedure.
Keep your doctor informed about any changes your experience about your health and get a consultation.
The liver transplant is done in the following steps depending upon whether it is a deceased donor transplant or living donor transplant:
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As with every surgery, the risk of complications is there, and a liver transplant is no exception. However, not all patients develop complications, but it is good to be aware of them. Below are some of the common complications linked with liver transplant:
Certain complications may occur during or shortly after the surgery, such as:
You will be prescribed immunosuppressants to suppress the action of the immune system to aid the adjustment of the new organ in your body. However, taking immunosuppressants may expose you to various infectious diseases.
Your new liver may acquire the previous diseases that were present earlier due to the malfunctioning in the body. This may call a need for a second transplant apart from regular medical care. However, this is not very common and is seen in less than 0.5% cases.
Sometimes, your new liver may not be accepted by the body and hence may not be able to function appropriately. Our immune system recognizes the foreign particles or organisms like bacteria or viruses, and it may not accept the new organ as well, leading to rejection. Mild to moderate rejection is easily treatable. Being regular with medications will help avoid rejection.
You will be prescribed certain anti-rejection medications for the proper functioning of the liver and overall health. These medicines can behave certain major side effects such as:
After the surgery is completed, you will be taken to a recovery room for few hours, where you will be under observation. Once your doctor feels you are in stable condition, you will be shifted to the intensive care unit (ICU), where you are observed closely for several days, and your vitals will be monitored.
Frequently blood samples will be taken to check the new liver. The doctors will also keep a check that other organs like the kidney, lungs, and circulatory system are all working. Anti-rejection medicines will be administered and closely watched to be sure that the patients are getting the right dose and mixing the right medicines.
When the doctor feels you are stable, you will be shifted to a normal ward. Gradually, you will be able to move and walk around for a long duration. The doctor will then teach you how to take care of yourself when you go home.
A liver transplant can significantly improve the quality of life of the patients. However, there are certain practices and measures that you need to follow to live a normal life.
Note: Overall outcomes of Liver transplants are extremely good but may vary depending on the indications for a liver transplant and factors linked with a donor.
With progress in medicine, the life expectancy of patients undergoing liver transplants is also progressing. In comparison to the last decade, the life expectancy of patients has improved.
It is essential to learn about different transplant hospitals and centers before finalizing the one. Here are few things to keep in mind while choosing a transplant hospital/center:
Living with a disease that badly affects your life is an extremely painful experience both for the patient and his family. Getting a liver transplant can certainly improve the quality of life of the patient. The average cost of liver transplants in India varies between 20 lakh approximately. It is important to check with the insurance company whether the transplant cost is covered in your plan. Various factors that will affect the cost are:
A patient who travels away from home to hospitals for transplant also needs to keep the cost of stay near the hospital in the new city. The cost of staying also adds up over the course of a few months.