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Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a liver transplant last? 

If you follow care requirements after transplantation and don’t have complications, there is no limit to how long a transplanted liver lasts. Your condition, health and lifestyle affect transplant success. Certain diseases – such as hepatitis C – can return causing complications that require treatment.

What are some common reasons for a liver transplant?

Doctors may advise a liver transplant procedure for life-threatening liver disease or injury. Conditions causing serious liver damage include:

  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Poisonous foods or substances
  • Drug reaction or overdose
  • Improper use of acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Viral hepatitis (inflammation)
  • Infection
  • Autoimmune, metabolic or genetic diseases
  • Tumors 
  • Primary liver cancer
  • Cirrhosis (scarring)
  • Trauma
  • Biliary (bile, bile ducts or gall bladder) disease
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol
What are the living donor liver transplant risks? 

Your team manages liver transplant donor risks and discusses ways to prevent complications. Risks include:

  • Infection
  • Abnormal bleeding or clotting
  • Bile fluid leaks
  • Organ damage
  • Abdominal hernia
  • High blood pressure
What liver transplant risks should I consider if I have end-stage liver disease? 

Any surgery has risks, including those related to your pre-surgery condition. Doctors manage risks, including prescribing medication to control clotting and prevent infection or rejection. Following care instructions also reduces risks. Potential complications include:

  • Organ-rejection – Your immune system can attack the new liver as foreign tissue.
  • Infection – Infection may develop around internal or external surgical sites.
  • Excess bleeding – Post-transplant bleeding requires surgery.
  • Abnormal clotting – Clots in a blood vessel to or from your liver can cause organ damage.
  • Biliary injury – Injuries can include damage to bile ducts. 
  • Medication side effects – Infection risk can increase from weakened immunity.
What is the typical liver donor recovery process?

Liver transplant recovery for donors depends on the procedure – including the type and size of liver tissue removed and whether it’s minimally invasive or open surgery.

After surgery, a liver donor stays overnight in intensive care. You’ll move to a hospital room where specialists oversee your care. Most donors are hospitalized for a few days to a week.

Liver tissue regrows, forming a complete liver in six to eight weeks. You’ll return for outpatient evaluation. Full recovery usually ranges from three to six weeks.

Generally, how long is the wait time for a liver transplant?

If you find a suitable living donor, wait times can be as short as a few days or weeks. If not, doctors send your information to a national transplant waiting list managed by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

It can take months or longer to find a suitable donor liver. Experts measure certain criteria and assign a priority score. This indicates how urgently you need a new liver. Those who are critically ill are more likely to get the next available liver.

  • Measures affecting your score and wait time include:
  • Severity of liver disease and condition
  • Whether you’re on dialysis
  • Kidney function and liver health blood measurements
  • Blood type and group
  • Availability of suitable donor organs in your region
  • Distance from donor location to transplant center
What do I need to know about diet after liver transplant?

Experts help you plan a liver transplant diet. Generally, avoid or limit:

  • Fried, fatty, sugary or salty foods
  • Raw or undercooked fish or meat
  • Alcohol (avoid or limit as instructed by your doctor)
  • Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils

Drink plenty of water and choose:

  • Vegetables and fruit
  • High-fiber foods
  • Lean meat
  • Skinless poultry
  • Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Fat-free or low-fat milk
What are liver transplant side effects?

Anti-rejection drugs weaken your immune system. You take a higher dose for weeks or months after your transplant. During this time, you have a greater risk of fungal and respiratory infection. As your body adjusts, doctors lower the dose.

Since you take anti-rejection drugs for life, you’ll have a higher risk of infection and certain types of cancer.  

Can I drink alcohol after liver transplant?

It’s best to limit or avoid alcohol to protect your liver and long-term health. Generally, most people can have one or two occasional drinks. Your doctor will advise you about your condition and appropriate diet and lifestyle changes.

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Find a doctor near you, request an appointment, or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.