Many medical conditions, such as chronic aggressive hepatitis, liver tumors or cirrhosis, can cause liver failure. A liver transplant becomes the last resort when the liver disease becomes so advanced that medication or surgery offers no hope for improvement. The liver transplant process is a long journey that can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion. Below are ways that can help you live a healthy life after a liver transplant.
Liver Transplant Team
Your liver transplant team is a critical element during the transplant process. These are dedicated professionals who are highly trained and whose goal is your well-being. One of the members of your transplant team is the gastroenterologist. He is the physician who will be responsible for your care on a daily basis. Always discuss any concerns or questions with your transplant physician. Another important member of your team is your transplant coordinator. This person is often a registered nurse who manages all the different aspects of your transplant, such as making sure lab tests are done, updating medication refills and ensuring follow-up care after your hospital discharge. Always report any unusual changes in your health status or signs and symptoms of rejection to your transplant team.
Liver Transplant Surgery
A liver transplant is a surgical procedure that offers the gift of life. Another important member of your transplant team is the transplant surgeon. The surgeon will replace your failing liver with a healthy liver. The new liver may be from a donor that is deceased or from someone that is living. Family members or individuals that are unrelated to you may be possible donors. A living donor can donate a portion of the liver and still be able to live a healthy and full life. The liver is an amazing organ that is able to regenerate and can rebuild itself back to normal within several weeks.
When you receive your new liver, you will be required to take immunosuppressive medications. Common immunosuppressive medications include Azathioprine, Cyclosporine, Neoral and Tacrolimus. These medications suppress your immune system. If your immune system is not modified with medication, your body would treat your new liver as it would any foreign and unwelcome invader. It would attempt to destroy it. These medications are crucial to prevent rejection of your new liver. Patients that do not take their medications as prescribed are called non-complaint. Noncompliance is one of the major reasons that a new liver transplant fails. It is very important that you take all of your medicines directly as prescribed so that your body has a constant level of medication. Many patients live for many years taking regular doses of medications.
Outcomes After Liver Transplantation
According to the U.S. Transplant site, the adult and pediatric liver transplant one-year survival rate is about 85 percent. The percentage drops to 60 percent if the patient is critically ill at the time of transplantation. The survival rate for adult and pediatric liver transplant at five years is about 80 percent. It is impossible to say what the exact life expectancy is for each individual patient. But a patient has a high survival rate when compliant with medication and follow-up care.
Once you leave the hospital, you are responsible for taking proper care of your liver. According to the Liver Foundation, many patients can return to a normal or almost-normal lifestyle about six months to a year after a liver transplant. There are many important lifestyle changes that you can do to maintain your health. For example, work with a nutritionist who can help you figure out the best way to meet your nutritional needs without gaining too much weight. Being overweight can lead to diabetes and high blood pressure, which can be detrimental to your liver. Talk with your transplant coordinator about an exercise program. Resume exercises, such as walking, running, swimming and bicycling, slowly as your body heals from the surgery. Remember that your new liver is your second chance at life. Do everything you can to stay healthy.