Know the Steps of the Liver Transplant Procedure

Liver transplantation is one of the treatments for liver or liver failure conditions. This procedure is a major operation and is not easy to perform. To perform a liver transplant procedure, there are several stages that need to be passed.

The liver is an organ located at the top of the right abdominal cavity, just below the diaphragm and to the right of the stomach. This organ weighs about 1.3 kg in an adult and is known as the largest organ in the body.

There are various functions of the liver that are very important for the body, including:

  • Producing protein
  • Breaking down nutrients from food into energy
  • Storing vitamins and minerals
  • Producing bile
  • Destroys old red blood cells
  • Get rid of toxins from the body

If the liver is disturbed that causes its various functions to not work normally, this will certainly have an impact on the condition of the body as a whole.

Liver Transplant Procedure Stages

Liver transplants are generally performed when other treatment methods are ineffective for treating liver damage. Following are the stages in the liver transplant procedure:

Stage I: Determine the cause of liver damage

Liver transplants are generally performed when the liver is damaged, so it is unable to perform its functions properly. This condition is also known as liver failure.

Liver failure can be caused by various things, ranging from viral infections, side effects of drugs, alcoholism, to drug abuse. This condition can also be caused by a history of long-term health problems, such as:

  • Chronic hepatitis that progresses to cirrhosis
  • Biliary atresia
  • Bile duct damage
  • Accumulation of bile in the liver
  • Wilson's disease
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Heart cancer
  • Accumulation of fat in the liver (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease)
  • cystic fibrosis (cystic fibrosis)

Phase II: Finding organ donors

It is not easy to get a liver donor, especially looking for a really suitable donor. This can take days to months. Generally, there are two types of liver transplant options, namely liver from living donors and deceased donors.

Live donor

These donors can come from siblings, spouses, or friends who have undergone a medical and psychological evaluation prior to donating.

Some of the requirements that must be met by donors are as follows:

  • There is no element of coercion and of their own free will to donate
  • Excellent health condition
  • The blood type is the same as the donor recipient
  • Between 18–60 years old
  • Body size profile equal to or greater than the donor recipient

The procedure of this type of donor is to remove part of the donor's liver and place it on the recipient's body who has liver disease. It is hoped that the donor's liver will grow to its normal size in a few weeks.

Donors who have died

If the liver donor comes from someone who has died, then the liver should be selected from a donor who has permanently died of brain function, but the heart is still beating. This condition is also known as brain death.

Stage III: Perform liver transplant

Before a doctor decides a person can receive a liver transplant, several examinations and consultations are needed, such as:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Ultrasound to confirm the condition of the liver, heart examination, as well as other health checks including nutritional consultation.
  • Psychological evaluation to make sure a person understands the risks of a liver transplant procedure.
  • Financial consulting.

Once the tests are done and a donor liver has been obtained, the liver transplant procedure can be started. Following are the steps:

  • The patient will be given an anesthetic or anesthetic to sleep during the transplant process.
  • The doctor will make an incision in the abdomen and remove the damaged liver.
  • The doctor will place the new liver on the patient's body, then close the incision with stitches.

This operation is classified as a major operation that takes about 6-12 hours. During the operation until a few days later, the patient will use several special tubes to support body functions.

Stage IV: Be aware of the risk of complications

Just like other medical procedures, liver transplantation is also inseparable from the risk of complications that can arise. There are two most common risks of complications after liver transplantation, namely:


This happens because the immune system works to destroy foreign objects that enter the body. This condition can be experienced by about 64% of liver transplant patients, especially in the first 6 weeks.

Therefore, the doctor will give medicine to prevent the immune system from reacting to rejection after a liver transplant.

Vulnerable to infection

Administration of immune-suppressing drugs can increase the risk of infection. However, the risk of such infection will decrease over time.

Patients with liver transplant surgery may have to take drugs that suppress the immune system for the rest of their lives to prevent rejection of the transplanted organ.

Unfortunately, these drugs have various side effects, including diarrhea, headaches, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and thinning bones.

In addition, other risks after liver transplant surgery that can occur are bleeding, bile duct complications, blood clots to problems with memory or memory.

Stage V: Go through the recovery process

One of the factors that can determine the length of the patient's recovery process is how severe the patient's condition was before surgery. Generally, it takes about 6–12 months to completely heal.

Life expectancy after liver transplantation varies greatly, depending on individual conditions. In general, more than 70% of patients who undergo liver transplantation survive for at least 5 years after surgery.

Liver transplant is one of the procedures that can treat liver failure, but it is also necessary to pay attention to some of the risks. Consult a doctor to find out more about the benefits and risks of a liver transplant procedure if you need to undergo it.