How does recovery after liver transplantation work?

The liver is an organ that has the ability to regenerate, but that does not mean that it is indestructible. Some diseases, such as hepatitis and steatosis, can cause serious, permanent and irreversible damage, which causes it to gradually lose its functions , which is known as cirrhosis.

When the liver is no longer able to supply the needs of the body, a curative treatment alternative is transplantation, which helps to save the lives of these patients. The procedure is successful in most cases , but great care is needed during the post-operative period.

Primary care is essential for the body to recover and accept the new liver. However, this care needs to be maintained in the medium and long term, as the patient will need attention throughout his life.

In order for you to better understand how this process works, we have prepared this article explaining how the recovery of transplant patients takes place and the measures adopted to ensure their health and quality of life. Keep reading!

Fibroscan liver elastography: See what it does and how the procedure works by clicking here!

Post-surgery recovery period

Care for the transplant patient’s recovery begins as soon as the surgery is completed. In the first few hours he will need to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit , usually for a day or two. In the ICU, there are professionals who exclusively take care of the transplant, allowing the monitoring of all its vital functions and the functioning of the new organ every 24 hours.

Some patients may need breathing apparatus and urine on a temporary basis. Anyway, transplant recipients are monitored, undergo laboratory tests and receive medications that minimize the discomfort of surgery, prevent infections and prevent organ rejection.

It is important to remember that the patient’s body perceives the new liver as a foreign body . Therefore, the immune system tends to attack it to eliminate it, so it is necessary to administer immunosuppressants, which prevent this reaction, known as rejection.

In the first few hours, the patient will need to be fasted. His clinical conditions will be observed to see if he can already receive fluids and light foods through his mouth. Slowly the diet will be increased. The expectation is that the transplanted person can return to eating normally, without restrictions, in a few days.

During the period you are in the ICU, it may also be necessary to use other devices that assist in the care and initial monitoring of the transplant, depending on the patient’s conditions. This is the case of the bladder, nasogastric tube, central venous catheter, arterial line and abdominal drainage.

Infirmary recovery

The speed of the patient’s recovery, as well as the greater or lesser risk of complications, depends a lot on the general clinical conditions that he already had before the surgery. It is also influenced by the quality of the liver that was received and how the surgery happened. Thus, some recover faster and others more slowly.

Anyway, as soon as he leaves the ICU, the transplanted person is sent to a sick room or bed because he cannot return home yet. You need to stay in the hospital for about a week in order to maintain monitoring, recover the ability to move around and eat without pain and without aids, as well as adjustments to the drugs that prevent rejection.

As soon as their general clinical conditions are stabilized and the risk of complications has already minimized, the transplant patient is discharged. However, you will still need to be accompanied with outpatient consultations and collection of laboratory tests to ensure your complete recovery and the proper functioning of the new liver. These consultations are more frequent right after hospital discharge and decrease over time for few annual visits.

Postoperative liver transplant at home

Upon returning home, the transplanted person will need to receive care, especially with regard to hygiene and the protection of their health. This is because it is necessary to avoid any contagious disease, since the immune system is not completely strengthened.

In some cases, will be necessary in addition to the drugs to prevent rejection of the use of antimicrobials and recommended mask use in the early days, the minimum of contact with relatives and friends, as well as removal of animals and people with illnesses. In addition, it is necessary that the environments are kept very clean and airy, also guaranteeing good personal hygiene.

Light activities can be practiced, such as walking and physical activity will be increased weekly. In the first months, it is necessary to avoid very intense efforts, especially with the abdomen.

The diet will be prescribed individually, but in general it will be rich in vegetables, fruits, vegetables and fiber, minimizing the consumption of sodium, sugar and fats, as well as red meat. Particular care is taken to gain muscle mass in the postoperative period so that the transplanted person progressively returns to his physical strength and is able to return to his normal daily life. In the long run, use of vaccines, general health care, including maintaining the ideal weight through proper diet and exercise, will be critical to a long and healthy life.

Care at home is many, and these are just a few examples of the recommendations made for liver transplant recipients. The ideal is to talk to the doctor and pay attention to all his instructions, to ensure a good recovery and minimize the risk of complications or rejection.

Intake of immunosuppressants

As we explained, immunosuppressive drugs are essential so that the body does not reject the new liver. The first prescribed dosages have a higher concentration, but over time it can be reduced gradually, maintaining itself only to avoid the reaction of the immune system against the organ.

Most patients need to ingest immunosuppressants for life because the risk of rejection exists, even after decades of transplantation. Anyway, as we explained, the medication dosage is reduced to the maximum and adjusted for each patient.

Cirrhosis: Find out how to cure the disease at an advanced stage by clicking here!

Following all medical guidelines, the transplanted patient can lead a normal life, maintaining his studies, work and leisure time. Thus, you will have a healthy liver that will fulfill all its functions, ensuring health and quality of life.


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