Do you know that the Liver is the only organ of the body with unique properties of regeneration, which means it can grow back to normal, healthy size after potentially suffering harm due to some uncertain conditions. Patients with disorders like liver cancer, liver cirrhosis, and in some cases of acute or chronic hepatitis might need a liver transplant. We have got you covered about why and when you would need to go for a liver transplant surgery.
Who needs a liver transplant and why it is done?
A person with even a 30% healthy liver can carry on with their daily activities normally without any complications or the need for surgery. But due to some accidental damage or patients with conditions of liver failure due to suffering from different hepatic disorders, would need to go for a liver replacement or liver transplant surgery.
There are various factors that might lead to liver failure in humans. Some of the common habits or conditions that lead to liver damage in humans, in the long run, are;
- Alcohol consumption
- Overdose of drugs
- Inhalation of certain chemical substances, such as aerosol sprays, insecticides/pesticides, etc.
All of these habits or conditions damage your liver over time or lead to Liver cirrhosis. Liver cirrhosis is the damage of liver cells due to exposure to certain chemicals and overuse/overconsumption of certain drugs and toxic substances.
Apart from the above-mentioned causes, there are certain diseases that possibly damage your liver and would require you to undergo a liver transplant surgery in urgent. Some of such disease conditions are;
- Hepatitis: both acute & chronic
- Liver cancer
- Biliary disease
Liver transplant surgery: How it is done?
Anyone with a healthy liver could choose to donate a liver to the one who needs it, required that the receivers and donor’s blood group match. You can receive a liver from both a deceased and living donor.
A patient with a healthy, properly functioning liver could also choose to donate his/her liver, as due to the property of regeneration your liver grows back to its original size within the time frame of two to three weeks. The regenerated liver then continues to perform the normal functions in the body.
Liver transplant surgery may not require you to go fully unconscious, it is often performed using general anesthesia, so you’ll be in a sleep-like state during the whole transplant procedure.
A long incision is made across your stomach to access your liver by the transplant surgeon. The location and size of an incision vary according to your surgeon’s approach and your own anatomy.
The surgeon takes out your liver and replaces it with a donor’s liver. The surgeon will then join your bile ducts and blood arteries to the donated liver. Depending on the patient’s circumstances the transplant surgery usually lies up to 12 hours or less.
The surgeon closes the surgical wound with stitches and staples after inserting your replacement liver. After that, you’re brought to the intensive care unit to start your recovery.
Following the surgical treatment, you would need to abide by any precautions and medications that your doctor may advise, in some cases you might need to live on medications for the rest of your life.
Successful Liver transplants tend to increase your life expectancy by 15+ years.
Recovery: Coping and Support
Depending on the extent of your injury and the healing process, the typical recovery period following a successful liver transplant may last upto 6 months or more, you can resume your normal activities usually after a month of getting operated.
For a healthy recovery after a successful liver transplant surgery, you would need a good balance of a healthy diet and routine exercise, which will make the process of recovery fast and flexible for you.
a poor or unbalanced diet deteriorates your liver’s health and makes it unhealthy. To make your liver healthy after the surgery, you must follow a strict balanced diet including plenty of fruits, vegetables, animal protein with good fat, carbohydrate & protein ratio, plenty of fluids, and antioxidant-rich foods.
Taking antioxidants can help injuries recover more quickly. As a result, your doctor may advise you to eat foods high in antioxidants to accelerate your recovery from surgery. Below are some of the widely known antioxidants and their sources that you could include in your diet :
- Beta-carotene: The richest sources of beta-carotene are yellow, orange, and green leafy vegetables & fruits (such as carrots, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and broccoli).
- Lycopene: Red fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, pink guavas, apricots, watermelons, and pink grapefruits are important sources of lycopene.
- Selenium: Protein foods from animals are generally good sources of selenium. Seafood, organ meats, and Brazil nuts are the foods with the highest content of selenium.
- Vitamin A: Concentrations of preformed vitamin A are highest in liver, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, tomato products, fruits, and some vegetable oils are also good sources of Vitamin A.
- Vitamin C: All fruits and vegetables contain some amount of Vitamin C. Citrus fruits and juices, such as orange and grapefruit are the highest sources of Vitamin C.
People frequently assume that after surgical procedures, one should avoid strenuous activity or exercise in general, but this is not true in the case of liver transplant surgeries. After a liver transplant, to maintain and improve your overall physical and mental health, you should continue to regularly engage in physical activity and exercises.
It is often advised to walk regularly soon after your transplant surgery. You can also include other kinds of physical activities later, depending on your recovery rate.
After a transplant, you can continue to live a healthy, active lifestyle by engaging in physical activities you love, such as walking, cycling, swimming, low-impact strength training, and other sports. But before beginning or adjusting your post-transplant exercise routine, make sure to consult your transplant surgeon.