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Liver Transplant

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Sep 3, 2023.

Liver transplant is surgery to replace part or all of your liver with a healthy liver from another person.

Abdominal Organs


Before your surgery:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.
  • General anesthesia will keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. Anesthesia may be given through your IV. You may instead breathe it in through a mask or a tube placed down your throat. The tube may cause you to have a sore throat when you wake up.
  • A central line (a type of IV catheter) may be placed. The central line may be used to give medicines or IV fluids. It may also be hooked up to a monitor to take certain blood pressure readings. This information helps healthcare providers check how well your heart is working.

During surgery:

  • General anesthesia will keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. Your surgeon will make incisions under each side of your ribcage. There will also be an incision made down the middle of your abdomen. Muscles and other tissues will be moved aside to help your surgeon see your liver better. The blood vessels attached to your liver will be cut and closed to stop any bleeding. The blood flow to your liver will be stopped during surgery.
  • Your surgeon will remove your liver and place the donor liver. He or she will connect the blood vessels of the donor liver to your blood vessels. Blood will then be able to flow through your new liver. Then, your surgeon will attach your bile duct to the donor liver's bile duct. He or she may use stitches, surgical glue, or a laser beam to stop any bleeding. Drains will be placed around your liver to remove any extra blood and fluid after surgery. Your incision will be closed with stitches and covered with a bandage.

After surgery:

  • You may be taken to a recovery room then the intensive care unit (ICU). Healthcare providers will watch you closely to make sure you are okay. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. When healthcare providers see that you are okay, you will be taken back to your hospital room. A healthcare provider may remove the bandages soon after surgery to check your wound or drains. The drains are taken out when the incision stops draining.
  • You will be helped to walk around after surgery. Movement will help prevent blood clots. You may also be given exercises to do in bed. Do not get out of bed on your own until your healthcare provider says you can. Talk to healthcare providers before you get up the first time. They may need to help you stand up safely. When you are able to get up on your own, sit or lie down right away if you feel weak or dizzy. Then press the call light button to let healthcare providers know you need help.
  • Take deep breaths and cough 10 times each hour. This will decrease your risk for a lung infection. Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can. Let the air out and then cough strongly. Deep breaths help open your airway. You may be given an incentive spirometer to help you take deep breaths. Put the plastic piece in your mouth and take a slow, deep breath, then let the air out and cough. Repeat these steps 10 times every hour.
  • You will be able to drink liquids and eat certain foods when your stomach function returns after surgery. You may be given ice chips at first. Then you will get liquids such as water, broth, juice, and clear soft drinks. If your stomach does not become upset, you may then be given soft foods, such as ice cream and applesauce. When you can eat soft foods easily, you may slowly begin to eat solid foods.
  • Medicines may be given to prevent or relieve pain, nausea, or an infection caused by bacteria. You will be given antirejection medicine. This helps prevent your body from rejecting your new liver. You may need to take this medicine for the rest of your life. Medicine may be given to prevent anemia and help your body make red blood cells. Vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin D, calcium, or iron, may be needed to improve your health.
  • Blood and urine tests will be sent to a lab for tests. These tests check how well your new liver is working.
  • A chest x-ray, CT, or MRI may show how your lungs and liver are working after surgery.


You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. The fluids used during your surgery may build up in your abdomen and lungs. Extra fluid may make it hard for you to breathe. Nerves, blood vessels, muscles, intestines, and other organs may get damaged. Your blood pressure may decrease, or you may have abnormal heartbeats during surgery. You may develop a life-threatening blood clot in your arm or leg. Your condition may get worse during surgery, and may become life-threatening. Your body may reject the new 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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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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.

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