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Liver Transplant Recipient's Perspective -- In-depth

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Reviewed By: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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Let's now take a closer look at what will happen during the recipient's transplant surgery.
The donor and recipient surgeries usually take place at the same time. If something unusual is found in the recipient - like a tumor outside of the liver - or something happens that is likely to make the operation unsuccessful, the surgeries may be delayed or cancelled.
To begin the operation, an incision is made below the recipient's ribcage. Sometimes this is an upside-down "T" shape.
Special instruments are used to help hold the skin and other tissues open so the doctors can reach the liver. Special clamps pinch the veins, bile ducts, and arteries of the liver to stop the flow of blood and bile. The vessels and bile ducts are then cut, and the diseased liver is removed.
The new liver, which has been waiting on ice, is placed in the same position as the diseased liver. Stitches are used to first connect the veins, then the major arteries. After the liver is correctly attached, the clamps that are pinching the blood vessels closed are removed, allowing blood to flow again. The bile duct is then attached. The doctor will then watch to make sure the new liver is working properly, and that there isn't any unexpected bleeding.
Once the lobe is functioning well, the instruments are removed and the doctor uses stitches or surgical staples to help the incision heal. The staples are left in place for about 2 to 3 weeks and are covered by a bandage, which will remain in place for a few days.
While each transplant is different, patients usually spend about 8 to 10 hours in the operating room. The surgery itself usually lasts about 5 to 6 hours.


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