In the hospital
After the surgery you may be taken to the recovery room for a few hours before being taken to the intensive care unit (ICU). You will be closely watched in the ICU for several days.
You will be hooked up to monitors. They will show your heartbeat, blood pressure, other pressure readings, breathing rate, and your oxygen level. You will need to stay in the hospital for 1 to 2 weeks or longer.
You will most likely have a tube in your throat. This is so you can breathe with the help of a machine (a ventilator) until you can breathe on your own. You may need the breathing tube for a few hours or a few days, depending on your situation.
You may have a thin plastic tube inserted through your nose into your stomach to remove air that you swallow. The tube will be taken out when your bowels start working normally again. You won’t be able to eat or drink until the tube is removed.
Blood samples will be taken often to check your new liver. They will also check that your kidneys, lungs, and circulatory system are all working.
You may have IV drips to help your blood pressure and your heart, and to control any problems with bleeding. As your condition gets better, these drips will be slowly decreased and turned off. You may receive antibiotics.
Once the breathing and stomach tubes have been removed and you are stable, you may start to drink liquids. You may slowly begin to eat solid foods as directed.
Your anti-rejection medicines will be closely watched to be sure you are getting the right dose and the right mix of medicines.
When your provider feels you are ready, you will be moved from the ICU to a private room. You will slowly be able to move about more as you get out of bed and walk around for longer periods of time. You will slowly be able to eat more solid foods.
Your transplant team will teach you how to take care of yourself when you go home.
Once you are home, you must keep the surgical area clean and dry. Your healthcare provider will give you specific bathing instructions. Any stitches or surgical staples will be removed at a follow-up office visit, if they were not removed before leaving the hospital.
You should not drive until your provider tells you to. You may have other limits on your activity.
Call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:
Fever (this may be a sign of rejection or infection)
Redness, swelling, or bleeding or other drainage from the incision site
More pain around the incision site. This may be a sign of infection or rejection.
Vomiting or diarrhea
Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions, depending on your situation.
What is done to prevent rejection?
You must take medicines for the rest of your life to help the transplanted liver survive in your body. These medicines are called anti-rejection medicines (immunosuppressive medicines). They weaken your immune system’s response.
Each person may react differently to medicines. And each transplant team has preferences for different medicines.
New anti-rejection medicines are always being made and approved. Your healthcare provider will create a medicine treatment plan that is right for you. In most cases you will take a few anti-rejection medicines at first. The doses may change often, depending on how you respond to them.
Your provider will watch you closely and order blood work to watch for rejection. If there is a concern about rejection, you likely will have a liver biopsy.
Anti-rejection medicines weaken the immune system. So people who have a transplant are at a higher risk for infections. Some of the infections you will be at greater risk for include:
For the first few months after your surgery, stay away from crowds or anyone who has an infection.
Each person may have different symptoms of rejection. Some common symptoms of rejection include: