The liver is the largest organ in the body, located in the upper right side of the abdomen. It prepares bile for the digestion of fats, converts food into energy, clears toxins and drugs from the blood and regulates blood clotting. Various liver disorders characterised by severe inflammation, cancer, tissue death and abnormalities can affect the normal functioning of the liver and lead to end-stage liver disease (ESLD), a life-threatening condition. Liver transplantation is a procedure to replace a diseased liver with a healthy one from a donor.
Liver transplantation is usually recommended for conditions such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancers. The most critical stage of liver transplantation is finding a perfect donor, either a relative or diseased donor. Since the donor liver can be considered as foreign and rejected by your body, many tests are performed to evaluate the closet match with a compatible blood type and in good health. If you have to depend on a non-relative for a healthy liver, you will be added to a waiting list of recipients and your case will be considered based on the urgency of your condition.
Liver transplantation surgery is performed under general anaesthesia on an inpatient basis. You will lie on your back on the operating table. Your doctor makes a slanting incision below your ribs, on both sides. The blood vessels connected to your liver are clamped, and the diseased liver is separated from its surrounding organs. Depending on the severity of your disease, either a portion of the liver or the entire liver is removed. A healthy liver is then placed and attached to the bile ducts and blood vessels to re-establish the blood flow. The incision is then closed with staples or stitches.
As with any surgery, liver transplantation may also involve certain risks and complications which include rejection and infection. To prevent rejection and encourage your body to accept the new organ, you will be prescribed medications that you have to take for the rest of your life. You will have follow-up visits with your doctor on a regular basis to monitor how your body has accepted the new liver.