Liver diseases are silent killers as they do not show any symptoms at the initial stages. Therefore, it is challenging to detect liver disease and treat it early. We only start noticing symptoms when the disease progresses to an advanced stage. At this stage, the disease would have caused irreparable damage to the liver, and the only option left is to undergo a liver transplant surgery.
Let us look at the liver transplant process, including the conditions to transplant, the procedures involved, post-surgery care and recovery.
A liver transplant is when a diseased liver is replaced with a portion of a liver from a healthy individual. It is the only alternative when a liver disease reaches an advanced stage and has caused irreversible damage.
The number of donors available is much lesser than the number of people that need to undergo a transplant. Hospitals and NGOs worldwide are working hard to reduce this gap in numbers.
When does an individual need a liver transplant?
A wide range of diseases affect the liver and hinder its functioning. The liver performs approximately 500 vital functions essential for our survival. If any of these functions are impeded, the liver is susceptible to damage and disease.
Some of these diseases include Hepatitis A-D, fatty liver disease (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and many other conditions.
These diseases scar the tissues and cells of the liver, causing damage to the internal and external walls of the liver. Once the liver is damaged, the functions start getting affected. Initially, these conditions might not show any symptoms of liver damage. Constantly monitoring the liver helps us detect these issues at an early stage and reverse the damage caused to the liver. But, when these diseases/symptoms are left unrecognised, it could cause liver cirrhosis, where the damage caused to the liver is up to 80-90%.
At this stage, as we cannot reverse the damage, it becomes crucial to undergo a liver transplant.
The procedure involved in liver transplantation
Liver transplantation is a byzantine procedure that involves many intricate details. There is no scope for any mistakes before, during and after the surgery.
The first step is to find a suitable donor. The availability of fewer donors poses a challenge to begin the procedure. The suitable donor must be:
- 18-50 years of age
- With healthy liver and kidney
- Compatible blood group
- Within the healthy BMI range
- With no history of alcohol abuse
Once we find a suitable donor with these qualities, the medical experts proceed with the surgical process. The Liver transplant surgeontransplants a portion of a liver into the recipient from a live donor.
After the transplant is complete, the doctors place the recipient and the donor under medical observation to check;
- If the recipient’s body has accepted the transplant
- If the donor’s liver can function properly
If the donor and recipient are fine, they are discharged with medical prescriptions to quickly recover.
Post-Surgery Care and Recovery
Once the surgery is done, the recipient and donor must take necessary precautions to avoid complications. Some of these precautions include:
- The recipient and donor should not consume oily, spicy and acidic foods.
- They must avoid alcohol intake (based on the advice of the doctors) till complete recovery.
- They should avoid the intake of painkillers, sleeping pills and anti-depressants to prevent further damage to the liver.
- The recipient and donor must practice food and water hygiene to reduce liver diseases and infections.
- They should lead a healthy lifestyle to avoid fat deposition on the liver, which could cause other complications.
These measures help ensure quick recovery from the surgery and avoid
any post-surgery complications.
We must constantly monitor our liver to avoid diseases or an infection. The first step is always being aware regarding the liver’s health.
Get in touch with the Chennai Liver Foundation to know more about liver infections, diseases and how you can keep yourself safe.