How to Recover From a Liver Transplant at Home

A liver transplant is a medical procedure used to remove a diseased liver and replace it with a healthy donor organ. The procedure may be used to treat serious liver conditions such as cirrhosis or cancer. Most liver transplant patients remain in the hospital after surgery for 1 week to 10 days, before they are released to go home. However, the recovery period continues for some time at home, and it is important to learn what that recovery process includes so you are prepared for your own, or a family member's, liver transplant surgery.


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    Prevent rejection of the donor liver by taking immunosuppressive medications. Take these as prescribed by your doctor.
    • Immunosuppressive medications lower your body's natural resistance to foreign substances, like your donor liver. In most cases, immunosuppressive medications have to be taken for the rest of the patient's life. However, as the body adjusts to the new liver, dosage amounts may be decreased, and a few patients have been able to stop taking the medication completely. Doctors cannot predict how and when dosages of these medications may be altered, since it varies from patient to patient.
    • In addition to protecting the new liver, immunosuppressant medications also leave patients more vulnerable to infection and illness. During the first 3 to 6 months of the medication, patients are usually advised to avoid people who are sick to avoid picking up an infection. Additional medication may be prescribed during this period to reduce the risk of infections as well.
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    Watch for signs of liver transplant rejection. Call your doctor right away if symptoms arise.
    • Some of the symptoms to watch for during liver transplant recovery include pain around the liver, fever and dark-colored urine. Jaundice is also a warning sign that the donor liver may not be working properly. Jaundice is usually detected through a yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes.
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    See your doctor regularly for follow-up visits. They will probably be weekly for the first month, and then monthly until your doctor is satisfied that your donor liver is functioning normally.
    • Doctor's visits after liver transplant surgery will probably include blood tests and blood pressure checks to be sure the liver is functioning normally and screen for other possible complications. The specific type of testing and the frequency will vary somewhat from patient to patient, depending on how recovery is progressing.
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    Follow a careful diet. A proper diet will prevent weight gain due to water retention, a common problem after liver transplant surgery.
    • A lower salt intake is important to prevent water retention. A healthy, balanced diet consisting of plenty of whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables will also promote healing and keep the body in top condition throughout the recovery process.
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    Avoid physical activity, according to your doctor's instructions. Your doctor will let you know when your liver transplant recovery is complete and when you can resume physical activity.
    • While individual recovery times vary from patient to patient, most are able to resume all of their previous physical activity within 6 months to 1 year. Sex is usually allowed when other physical activity may be resumed. Some patients find they can actually do more after surgery, since they now have a healthy, disease-free liver.

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Categories: Pain Management and Recovery