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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.

Ready for an Appointment?

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