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A liver transplant is a surgery which replaces a diseased liver with a healthy liver. The donor liver can come from a living donor (part of the liver is surgically removed from a healthy person) or a deceased donor (a whole liver recovered from a person who has passed away).
The surgery usually takes 5 to 8 hours, but may be longer depending on the patient. One of two incisions will be made, a side to side incision below both sides of your rib cage or straight down the middle of your upper abdomen. The incision is 10 inches or more.
Your old liver and gall bladder are removed first to make room for the new liver. Your new liver is attached to your body by:
When these connections are completed, the muscle layers of your abdomen are stitched together. Staples are usually used to close the surgical incision. We take out the staples 2 to 3 weeks after surgery.
You can expect to stay in the hospital for 10-14 days
If you receive part of a liver it will grow to whatever size is needed to provide normal function. This growth occurs over 6 to 8 weeks.
Every recipient and every donated liver has a slightly different structure and the attachment of each liver will change somewhat because of this.
Sometimes a small tube, called a stent, is placed in the duct to give it support. Usually this tube passes out of your body on its own in your stool, but sometimes it will need to be removed by your doctor. If needed, this is done a few weeks after surgery by gastroscopy.
Some patients may have drainage tubes placed in their abdomen to allow any extra fluid to drain for a few days after surgery. These tubes will be removed before you are discharged.
You may receive blood products such as packed cells, plasma, or platelets during the operation. There is a small chance (10-15%) you will go on a bypass machine to keep your blood pressure stable during surgery. If this happens, you will have 2 small incisions in your left groin and in your left armpit.
Read our guide below to learn more about your kidney transplant surgery, or click on the topic that matters most to you. If you have questions or need more information, talk to your transplant surgeon or your transplant coordinator.
liver transplant evaluation is complete, you are placed on the liver transplant waiting list. When a liver becomes available, you will receive a call from a Transplant Coordinator.
The call for a transplant may come at any time of the day or night.
The transplant coordinator on-call will call you in this order:
The transplant coordinator on-call will ask you a few questions:
We expect you to arrive at the hospital as soon as possible after getting the call for transplant. Your estimated time of arrival will need to be discussed with the transplant coordinator. The transplant coordinator will tell you where to go once you arrive to the hospital.
Do not eat or drink from this time on.
In some cases, you may be called in as a back-up. This happens when there is a chance that the primary person will not receive the liver. Whenever possible, we will try to have you stay at home during this waiting period for the final decision. If tests show that the primary person on the list is not a good match, then you, as the back-up will be offered the liver.
Yes. Your surgery can be cancelled for many reasons:
You and your family may feel shock, disappointment, and sadness when this happens. All of these feelings are normal. You should call your
transplant coordinator to talk about any concerns you have about a cancellation.
You are still on the transplant waiting list and now know what to expect the next time you are called in.
Sometimes, you can become too sick to undergo transplant surgery.
There are several possible reasons:
If you become too sick to have a transplant, we will work with your referring or family doctor to plan your care. If you need to remain in hospital, you will be admitted to the one closest to your home.
Living Donor Recipients must stop eating and drinking by midnight on the night before your operation. Your stomach needs to be empty.
If you are receiving a
living donor liver transplant, you will be admitted the day before your surgery, to have a final assessment and ensure you are fit for surgery.
For deceased donor liver transplants, you will have the same assessments done right before the surgery to make sure it is safe to go ahead with the transplant.
You will be admitted to the
Transplant Inpatient Unit and examined by the liver transplant team.
Between 6 am to 11 pm go to:
Admitting DepartmentToronto General Hospital200 Elizabeth StreetGround Floor, Eaton Wing - Elizabeth Street entranceTGH Maps & Directions
Between 11pm and 7 am, go to:
Emergency DepartmentToronto General HospitalAt the corner of Elizabeth St. and Gerrard St.TGH Maps & Directions
On this page, you can read all about what to expect during your hospital stay. Or, just click on one of the links below, to get the answer you want right now.
After the operation, you will immediately begin treatment with medication designed to prevent your immune system from rejecting your new liver. These types of medication are known as immunosuppressants. You will now take these medications for life.
Moving your body is an important part of your recovery.
Nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, physiotherapists, and other members of the transplant team will teach you how to take care of yourself once you are discharged from the hospital.
Transplant Inpatient Unit, you will learn about your new life with a liver transplant, including how and when to take your new transplant medicines and any side effects you may have. You will meet with one of our transplant pharmacists. The pharmacist will answer any questions you may have about your new medicines. You can also visit our
patient toolbox to learn more about your transplant medicines and life after transplant.
You will complete your recovery back on the
Transplant Inpatient Unit. Our transplant nurses will help you continue to recover, gain strength, and learn how to manage with your organ transplant. Accommodation on this unit may be in a private or semi-private room. Private rooms are first allocated to patients requiring isolation, then to patients with private insurance coverage or those who have arranged to pay the daily fee for a private room.
Learn more about your stay
Remember:You cannot eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juices after transplant. It interferes with the absorption of your immunosuppressive medications
Before you leave the hospital we will arrange your follow-up clinic appointments. A detailed plan will be given to you, based on your progress and your doctor's recommendations.
When 2 times a week.
WhereLiver Transplant Clinic Toronto General Hospital Peter Munk Building - 12th floorTGH Maps & Directions
What to Expect You will need to have regular blood tests. The results will be viewed by the transplant team who will follow-up as necessary.
When You will also be seen every week in the
Liver Transplant Clinic. Over time, your clinic visits and blood tests will become less frequent. Follow-up appointments usually take 1 -2 hours.
When you arrive at the
Liver Transplant Clinic your blood work will be done, a review of your most recent bloodwork will be provided and we will adjust medications if required. At the end of every clinic you will be given a prescription for your transplant medications.
What to bring
To change an appointment, call your transplant coordinator by using the Easy Call system.
If you are experiencing health issues or concerns please use Easy Call to leave a message for your transplant coordinator. Use Easy Call if you have any of these symptoms:
If your health issue is urgent or requires immediate attention please go to your local emergency department.
Use Easy Call to speak with your transplant coordinator about post-operative questions.
Who Do I Call With In An Emergency?
If you have an emergency, please go to the closest emergency room or call 911.
Can I Email My Coordinator?
Talk to your transplant coordinator about email options, a consent form is required.