Liver transplant is a critical surgery that brings a lot of changes in the life after liver transplant. Recovery itself is a slow and gradual process that can take from 3-6 months before one is up and going. In this article, we will look at what are those impending changes that you can expect after liver transplant and how to take care of yourself. Also, visit our liver clinic.
After the kidneys, liver is the most commonly transplanted organ in the world. The survival rate of people with liver transplant has bolstered with one-year survival rate at 90% and five-year survival rate at 80%. Though the survival rate has gone up, but liver transplant still remains a treatment and not cure. People who take care of themselves continue to lead normal healthy life many years after liver transplant.
Liver transplant is usually done in patients with end-stage liver disease when that is the only option left. The surgery itself takes between 4-12 hours. After the surgery, the condition of the patient has to be closely monitored.
Stay in ICU and hospital
For the first few days post-surgery you’ll have to stay in intensive care unit (ICU) where a team of specialist doctors will closely monitor your condition round the clock. It may seem little frightening there with all the tubes and machines but be rest assured they are kept there to help you function better and for your quick recovery.
Post-surgery, you may need some assistance for breathing therefore you’ll be put on artificial ventilators which will later be replaced with oxygen mask as soon as you resume proper breathing. A tube will be inserted through your nose and into your stomach to provide you with nutrients and fluid. Immediately after the surgery, you will are bound to experience some pain. Therefore will be administered pain killers which are likely to make you feel drowsy.
Most people are able to shift from ICU to normal ward within a week and they can leave hospital within 2-3 weeks. Since during this period you’ll be prone to infections, the visits from your family and friends will be kept to bare minimum.
Risk of rejection
One of the biggest risks of liver transplant is that your body’s immune system may not recognize the new organ and thinking it’s an external body, began to attack it with antibodies. This is called rejection.
Life After Liver Transplant
Take medications throughout life
To control this risk of rejection, you’ll be put on immunosuppressants which are the drugs that curb immune system. The dose will be higher in the initial 3-4 months when the risk is high and is gradually decreased over next few months. There will be other drugs to reduce the risk of infection, bleeding and other complications.
Unpleasant side effects of immunosuppressant drugs
Immunosuppressants are known to cause high blood pressure, tremors, mood swings, muscle weakness and weight gain. Even though these side effects may bother you and interfere with normal routine, you should never stop taking them because it may create bigger problems.
Going for regular checkups
How is your body adapting to the new liver has to be constantly monitored by the transplant team. You may be regularly called for blood tests even two or three times a week in the early stages. Depending on your progress, your hospital visits will decrease and become more spaced out.
Getting back to normal routine
Adhere to the diet chart given by the dietician and exercise regime set by the physiotherapist to aid speedy recovery and stay healthier even after. Wait, till your doctor tells you to. There is no need to rush. Seek doctor’s permission to drive, go to gym, start a sport or for anything else.
- Never miss your medicines
- Tell your doctor about any unusual symptoms as small as itching
- Don’t postpone follow-up visits and blood tests
- In case you need treatment for any other condition or wish to take any physical activity, always inform your doctor and concerned person that you’ve undergone a liver transplant.
- Check with a dietician on what you can eat and what not. Stick to it.
- A strict NO to alcohol and smoking
Most people get back to leading a normal healthy life after transplant and feel better than they ever did before. With good medical assistance, family support and positive attitude, we are sure you will too!