A liver transplant is a surgical procedure to remove a diseased liver and replace it with a healthy liver from a donor. Most liver transplant operations use livers from deceased donors, though a liver may also come from a living donor.
Liver transplants have become common operations worldwide.
A healthy liver is usually obtained from a donor who has recently died, and doesn't have a liver injury. The donor liver is transported in a cooled saline solution that preserves the organ for up to 8 hours. This allows the necessary tests to match the donor with the recipient.
The diseased liver is removed through a surgical cut in the upper abdomen. The donor liver is put in place and attached to the patient's blood vessels and bile ducts. The operation may take up to 12 hours and requires that the patient receive a large amount of blood through a transfusion.
In some cases, a living donor may donate a section of liver for transplant to a family member or friend. This poses some risk to the donor because of the nature of the operation. However, the liver can regrow itself to some extent. Both people usually end up with fully functioning livers after a successful transplant.
The average hospital stay after liver transplant is two weeks to three weeks. Some patients may be discharged in less time, while others may be in the hospital much longer, depending on complications that may arise.
Liver transplants can save the lives of people who might otherwise die. Approximately 75% of patients survive 3 years or more after the transplant.
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