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Liver Resection


  • Liver resection is surgery to remove an area of your liver. Your liver is an organ that lies in the upper right side of your abdomen (stomach). Your liver has many functions including removing waste products from your blood. It breaks down your blood so your body can better use the nutrients. Your liver also helps control your blood clotting. The liver has a right and a left lobe, and can be divided into eight segments. The liver is the only organ in your body that can renew itself.
    Gallbladder, Liver and Pancreas
  • The most common reason for a liver resection is to remove liver cancer or liver metastases. Metastases are cancer cells that have spread to your liver from another area of your body. Liver resection also may be done for noncancerous liver problems. Some people choose to donate a part of their healthy liver to someone who needs a liver transplant. Ask your caregiver for more information about live liver donation.
  • Before having a liver resection, imaging tests are done to help plan your surgery. You also will need tests to check the function of your liver. The amount of your liver that will be removed depends on where the diseased areas are found. Because the liver can renew itself, over half of your liver can be removed if needed. During surgery, your caregiver will check for other diseased areas not found before surgery. Having a liver resection may decrease symptoms of liver problems such as abdominal pain and yellowing skin. If you have cancer, it may prevent it from spreading. A liver resection may even cure your cancer.


Take your medicine as directed:

Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • Antibiotic medicine: Antibiotic medicine is given to fight or prevent infection caused by germs called bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your caregiver. Keep taking this medicine until it is completely gone, even if you feel better. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.

Follow-up visits:

  • You may need to have many follow-up visits with your caregiver for the first year after your surgery. You may need blood tests to check the function of your liver. If your surgery was done to remove cancer, tests may be needed to check if it has returned. These tests include an abdominal ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). You may need a chest x-ray to check for the spread of cancer to your lungs. You also may need a colonoscopy to make sure your colon is free from disease. Keep all appointments. Write down any questions you may have. This way you will remember to ask these questions during your next visit.


Ask your caregiver about when you can return to your normal activities such as work and school.

Deep breathing and coughing:

This breathing exercise helps to keep you from getting a lung infection after surgery. Deep breathing opens the tubes going to your lungs. Coughing helps to bring up sputum (mucus) from your lungs for you to spit out. You should deep breathe and cough every hour while you are awake even if you wake up during the night.

  • Hold a pillow tightly against your incision (cut) when you cough to help decrease the pain. Take a deep breath and hold the breath as long as you can. Then push the air out of your lungs with a deep, strong cough. Put any sputum that you have coughed up into a tissue. Take 10 deep breaths in a row every hour while awake. Remember to follow each deep breath with a cough.
  • You may be asked to use an incentive spirometer. This helps you take deeper breaths. Put the plastic piece into your mouth and take a very deep breath. Hold your breath as long as you can. Then let out your breath. Use your incentive spirometer 10 times in a row every hour while awake.

Preventing deep vein thrombosis:

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition where blood clots form inside your blood vessels. This can easily happen after having surgery. Ask your caregiver for more information about deep vein thrombosis. The following can help prevent clots from forming inside your veins:

  • Compression stockings: Your caregiver may have you wear compression stockings. These are tight elastic stockings that put pressure on your legs after your surgery. The pressure is highest in the toe area and decreases as it goes toward your thighs. Wearing pressure stockings helps push blood back up to your heart and keeps clots from forming. Ask your caregiver for more information about using compression stockings.
  • Walking: Walking may help prevent blood clots and decrease your risk for a lung infection. Walking helps prevent blood from pooling in your legs and causing clots to form inside your veins.

Treatment for cancer:

If your liver resection was done to remove cancer, you may need cancer treatment after your surgery. Ask your caregiver for more information about the following treatments for cancer:

  • Chemotherapy: This medicine, often called chemo, is used to treat cancer. It works by killing tumor cells. Chemotherapy also may be used to shrink lymph nodes that have cancer in them. Many different chemotherapy medicines are used to treat cancer. You may need blood tests often. These blood tests show how your body is doing and how much chemotherapy is needed. Chemotherapy can have many side effects. Caregivers will watch you closely and will work with you to decrease side effects.
  • Radiation: This is a treatment using x-rays or gamma rays to treat cancer. Radiation kills cancer and keeps the cancer from spreading. It also keeps cancer cells from dividing into new cells, which is one way cancer spreads. Lymph nodes with cancer are also treated with radiation. In some cancers, radiation may be given after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. It also may be given with chemotherapy. Radiation may help decrease pain, control bleeding, and shrink the tumor.

Wound care:

Follow your caregiver's instructions about how to care for your wound at home.


  • You have a fever.
  • You have pain in the area of your wound that does not get better with rest or medicine.
  • Your wound is red, warm, and swollen.
  • You notice your stitches are becoming loose.
  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing that is getting worse over time.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition, medicine, or care.


  • You are not able to eat, and are losing weight.
  • You have foul smelling drainage coming from your wound.
  • You have severe (very bad) upper abdominal pain.
  • You have yellowing of your skin, or the whites of your eyes.
  • Your wound is bleeding and will not stop.
  • You have new and sudden chest pain. You may have more pain when you take deep breaths or cough. You may cough up blood.
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and have trouble breathing.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.