Failure of liver or liver function can be overcome by transplantation. It’s just that the liver transplant procedure is not easy and has to go through several stages. The following is a description of the liver transplant procedure that you must know.

Weighing about 1.3 kg in adults, the liver is the largest internal body organ located in the upper right abdominal cavity. The function of the liver is very important in the body, including producing protein, breaking down nutrients from food into energy, storing vitamins and minerals, producing bile, helping the body dispel bacteria, and getting rid of toxins from the body.

Know the Stages of the Liver Transplant Procedure

Organ malfunction

Liver transplantation is generally done when the liver has malfunctioned, for example due to acute infections that occur suddenly or complications that arise from drugs. Liver failure can also be caused by a history of long-term health problems, such as:

  • Chronic hepatitis that develops into cirrhosis.
  • Biliary atresia.
  • Damage to the bile duct (primary biliary cirrhosis).
  • Wounds and narrowing of the bile ducts in and around the liver which causes a buildup of bile in the liver (sclerosing cholangitis).
  • Alcohol addiction.
  • Wilson’s disease.
  • Hemochromatosis.
  • Heart cancer.
  • Fat accumulation in the liver (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease).
  • Cystic fibrosis.

The process of liver transplant surgery begins by taking the liver from the patient and replacing it with a liver from a donor. This operation is classified as a major operation that takes about 6 to 12 hours. During the operation until a few days later, the patient will use several special tubes to support bodily functions.

Before the doctor decides that a person can receive a liver transplant, several tests and consultations are needed, including blood and urine tests, ultrasound to determine the condition of the liver, a heart test, a comprehensive body health test and a nutrition consultation. In addition, no less important is a psychological evaluation to ensure someone understands the risk of a liver transplant procedure. Not infrequently financial consulting is also needed.

Organ Donor

It’s not easy to get a liver donor, especially one that is truly appropriate. This can take several days, even months. The doctor will try to overcome complications due to liver failure during this period.

There are generally two types of liver transplant options. First, the heart that comes from living donors. The second option is a heart that comes from a deceased donor.

  • The donor lives. These donors can come from siblings, spouses or friends who must undergo a medical and psychological evaluation first. Some donor requirements include intending to donate, having excellent health conditions, the same blood type as donor recipients, aged between 18 years to 60 years, and a body size profile equal to or greater than donor recipients.
  • The procedure of this type of donor is to remove a portion of the donor’s liver and implant it in the recipient’s body that has liver disease. It is hoped that the hearts of donors will grow to normal size within a few weeks.

  • Deceased donors. In order for the donor’s heart to be used in a transplant, the donor that is chosen is generally those who experience brain function death with a heart that is still beating.

Risk of Complications

Although it can overcome liver failure, the liver transplant procedure is not risk free. There are two risks of complications that are most often encountered after a liver transplant, namely:

  • There was a rejection. This is due to the immunity to work to destroy material that is considered foreign into the body. This is called the rejection period, experienced by about 64% of liver transplant patients, especially in the first six weeks. For this reason, the doctor will prescribe drugs to suppress the patient’s immune system, in order to suppress the rejection reaction after a liver transplant.
  • Vulnerable to attacked The provision of immune suppressant drugs can increase the risk of infection. The risk of infection will decrease with time.

In addition, other risks of postoperative liver transplantation that can occur are bleeding, complications of the bile ducts, blood clots to problems with memory.

Patients with liver transplant surgery may have to take a lifetime of suppressing the immune system to prevent rejection of the transplanted organs. Unfortunately, these drugs have various side effects, including diarrhea, headaches, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and thinning bones.

Recovery process

One factor that determines how long it takes to recover after a liver transplant surgery, is how severe the patient’s condition before surgery. Generally, to really heal, it takes about 6 months to one year.

Life expectancy after a liver transplant varies, depending on the individual’s condition. In general, more than 70% of patients who undergo liver transplantation survive for at least five years after surgery.

Although there is no precise method for estimating a person’s life expectancy postoperatively, there is data that records that around 70 percent of liver donor recipients can live for at least five years.

Liver transplantation is one procedure that can overcome the failure of liver function, but some risks must also be observed. Consult with your doctor before you make the decision.

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