The liver is responsible for carrying out several functions such as storing vitamins, minerals, sugar, metabolizing or breaking down of nutrients, producing substances to stop blood clotting, filtering toxins, etc. Hence, it becomes imperative for one, that proper care is taken of the liver.  In liver transplant, a failed or malfunctioning liver is surgically removed and replaced with a healthy one. It is done as a last resort measure, to recover from severe liver diseases.

Table of Contents

Types of liver transplant

Some of the types of liver transplant are –

  • Living donor transplant – Living donor transplant is done when the liver matches that of the recipient, with the consent of a living donor. The liver has the ability to regenerate itself. Hence, the surgeon removes either of one side of the liver (left or right lobe) and transplants it. The liver is then allowed to regenerate. Usually the right lobe is bigger, it is better suited for adults whereas the left for children, since it is smaller in size.
  • Cadaveric Transplant- In a cadaveric liver transplant, the liver of a recently deceased person is donated to two receipts. The left lobe is usually donated to a kid and the right lobe to an adult.

The number of recipients is higher as compared to the number of donors, hence liver transplantation can be a costly affair. However, as compared to other countries in the world, liver transplant cost in India is less expensive.

Why is liver transplant needed?

When the liver fails to function or loses its ability to regenerate, a liver transplant is required. Damage can be caused to the liver due to pre-existing illness, hereditary conditions, infections, or overconsumption of toxic items. In children and adults, liver transplantation is recommended only when the liver is critically damaged and no other options work out. Some of the reasons why liver transplant may be needed are –

  • For adults-In adults, the causes for liver failure or a liver transplant can be infection caused by hepatitis B virus or hepatitis C virus, primary biliary cirrhosis, fatty liver, alcoholic disease, fatty liver, ascites, etc. damage to the liver can also be caused by excessive drinking, obesity, diabetes type 2, injection of drugs through shared needles, tattoos or body piercings, etc.
  • For children – Liver transplant may be recommended to children when there are serious complications and are at the risk of dying. Some of the common conditions are viral hepatitis, liver cancer or tumours, hereditary conditions, conditions that are present at birth such as cholestatic disorders, Alagille syndrome, etc. Another common reason for a liver transplant is biliary atresia.

Liver transplantation process

Liver transplantation is one of the major surgeries and has several benefits. However, it is also a highly sensitive process. The procedure is as follows –

  • The recipient and the donor are both given general anaesthesia. The operation can last for 6 to 12 hours.
  • The surgeon then makes a long incision across the abdomen and disconnects the blood supply between the bile ducts and the liver. The liver is then removed.
  • The next step is to replace the faulty liver with the donor’s liver and reattach the blood vessels and the bile ducts.
  • The incision is then closed with stitches and staples and the patient is then kept under observation to monitor the proper functioning of the new liver.
  • Maintaining hygiene. One should maintain strict hygiene of the surroundings as well of the body. Keep on cleaning your hands with an antiseptic solution.
  • Proper care should be taken in case there is any wound, by the donor as well as receiver. Avoid taking baths in the bathtub, because the wound is at the risk of being wet and spreading infection.
  • Attention should be paid on what food is being eaten and the intake of nutrients. Your diet should be balanced, high in proteins, low fats, and in small proportions. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Add foods rich in calcium such as skimmed milk, soya, cheese, eggs, chicken, etc.
  • Exercise regularly and keep up with your checkups and doctor’s appointments.
  • Smoking and alcohol consumption must be restricted.

After getting discharged from the hospital strict rules need to be followed in order to ensure the smooth functioning of the liver. The first three months are highly critical as there are chances of the body rejecting the new liver, or a wound opening up, or spread of infection. Hence, one should take care of one’s personal hygiene as well as exterior. Change your bed sheets regularly, wear clean clothes and wash your hands with an antiseptic. Attention should be paid on what food you eat too. In the first three months eat only light foods and fruits. Your diet should be balanced. One should strictly avoid the consumption of alcohol or smoking.

Risks

While the survival rates of liver transplant in India are around 90%, there are some risks and complications too. Some of them are –

  • One of  the major risks of this surgery is transplant failure where the body rejects the new liver
  • Other risks include bleeding, blood clots, opening of the wound, spread of infection, damage to bile ducts, etc.
  • There can be side effects of the medications too.

Liver transplant is not suitable for everyone and one has the right to refuse to have a transplant. However, it’s always best to consult a liver specialist when you are dubious and can’t arrive on a conclusion. A new liver will ensure a longer life and a better life. With a successful liver transplant, one can resume to the daily life. It is necessary that one adopts the healthy ways of living to ensure a good and healthy liver.