​​​​​​​​In this Guide​

If you've been scheduled for a liver transplant, you probably have some questions. Our guide offers the answers you're looking for, and helps you prepare for your operation.

About the operation

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:  

  • The donor's bile duct to your own bile duct or to a loop of your bowel.
  • The donor's artery to your artery. 
  • The donor's veins to your veins. 

liver transplant

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.

Liver transplant surgery facts

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. ​​