What you should know
Liver resection is surgery to remove part of your liver.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
- You may have an allergic response to the medicines used during and after your surgery. The fluids used during your surgery may build up in your abdomen and lungs and make it hard for you to breathe. Even if the cancer is removed, it may come back, and you may need another liver resection. During surgery, your blood vessels may be damaged, and you may lose large amounts of blood. Air may also enter your blood vessels, which could be life-threatening if it enters your heart.
- After surgery, bile may leak from your bile ducts into your abdomen. You may get a wound, abdominal, or lung infection. An abscess (pus pocket) may form in your abdomen. You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. The clot may travel to your heart or brain and cause life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke. Your lungs and heart may not function as they should, and you may have a heart attack. The remaining area of your liver may fail, which can become life-threatening.
- Without surgery, your symptoms, such as jaundice and poor nutrition, may worsen. If you have cancer in your liver, the cancer may spread to other areas of your body. Your liver may fail, which can become life-threatening.
Before your surgery:
- Arrange a ride home. Ask a family member or friend to drive you home after your surgery or procedure. Do not drive yourself home.
- Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
- Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
- Tell your caregiver if you recently got chemotherapy. You may need to wait to have your surgery for up to 8 weeks after you get chemotherapy. This may help decrease any problems you may have after your surgery.
- Your caregiver may have you eat low-fat, high-protein foods if you have fat deposits in your liver. You may need to do this for a few weeks before your surgery. Ask your caregiver for more information about any other food changes you may need to make.
- Certain liver problems may make it hard for you to eat, and you may lose weight. You may need IV liquid nutrition if you are not able to eat enough before your surgery. The liquid provides your body with nutrition such as protein, sugar, vitamins, minerals, and sometimes fat.
- You may need to have biliary drainage to decrease your bilirubin levels before your surgery. Bilirubin comes from the breakdown of old red blood cells. You may develop jaundice if your liver cannot break down old red blood cells. Jaundice is a condition that develops when you have too much bilirubin in your body. Your skin and the whites of your eyes can turn yellow from the bilirubin. Ask your caregiver for more information about biliary drainage to prevent jaundice.
- You may need to have portal vein embolization 2 to 4 weeks before your surgery. Your portal vein is a large blood vessel that carries blood to your liver. Your caregiver may block the vein to see how well the healthy part of your liver functions. This will show whether the liver that will be left can function on its own.
- You may need to have a CT, PET, or MRI scan. You also may need an abdominal ultrasound and a chest x-ray. Blood tests will be done to check the function of your liver and other organs. You may need a colonoscopy and upper gastrointestinal endoscopy to check for any problems or disease. Ask your caregiver for more information about these and other tests you may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.
- Write down the correct date, time, and location of your surgery.
The night before your surgery:
Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.
The day of your surgery:
- You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
- An anesthesiologist may talk to you before your surgery. This caregiver may give you medicine to make you sleepy before your procedure or surgery. Tell your caregiver if you or anyone in your family has had a problem using anesthesia in the past.
- Antibiotics: You may be given antibiotics through your IV before your surgery. Antibiotics help prevent infection caused by bacteria.
- Arterial line: This is a tube placed into an artery (blood vessel), usually in your wrist or groin. An arterial line measures your blood pressure and may be used for taking blood.
- Central venous pressure line: A central venous pressure (CVP) line is a thin tube put in a vein near your collarbone, or in your neck or groin. The CVP line can monitor the fluid and pressure in your blood vessels. The CVP line also may be used to give medicines or fluids.
- Blood transfusion: You may need a transfusion during surgery if you lose a large amount of blood. You will get whole blood, or parts of blood through an IV. You also may need a blood transfusion after your surgery. Ask your caregiver for more information about blood transfusions.
What will happen:
- You will receive anesthesia medicine to keep you asleep and free from pain during your surgery. Your caregiver will make an incision in your abdomen just below your ribs. Muscles and other tissues will be moved aside to make your liver easier to see. An ultrasound may be done during surgery to look for unknown areas of disease. If the right side of your liver is being removed, your gallbladder will also be taken out. Clamps may be used to stop the blood flow through your liver during surgery. The blood vessels attached to the area to be removed will be cut and closed to stop any bleeding.
- Your caregiver will remove the diseased part of your liver. The clamps will be removed so blood can flow through the remaining part of your liver. Your caregiver may use stitches, glue, or a laser beam to stop any bleeding. The incision will be closed with stitches or tissue glue and covered with a bandage. The liver tissue that was removed may be sent to a lab for tests.
After your surgery:
You will be taken to a room where you can rest until you are fully awake. Do not get out of bed until your caregiver says it is okay. A caregiver may remove your bandages soon after your surgery to check your wound. When caregivers see that you are not having any problems, you will be taken to your hospital room.
Contact a caregiver if
- You cannot make it to your surgery.
- You get sick with a cold or the flu.
- You have a fever.
Seek Care Immediately if
- You feel very weak or get tired easily.
- You have a decreased appetite for food and are losing weight.
- You have new or worsening yellowing of your skin, or the whites of your eyes.
- You have severe abdominal pain.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.