Liver Transplant is a major surgery and is physically challenging for the recipient. Ss a result, post-operative care is equally important as the surgery itself. Certain precautions are to be followed to ensure the success of the surgery: -
- ICU: - After the transplant, the patient is transferred to the ICU, where they are kept for 3-4 days to recover from the surgery. After their bodily functions resume normal functions, they are transferred to the ward. Typically, they have to stay there for another 3-4 day and are discharged after that.
- Rejection: - After a liver transplant, the recipient's body perceives it as an alien tissue and starts attacking it as its natural reaction to any alien object. This can cause serious harm to the new liver. This is known as “Graft rejection reaction.” To prevent such a reaction, Immunosuppressant’s are administered, which help in suppressing the immunity and stop it from attacking the new liver. The dosage is heavy initially but is gradually reduced.
- Immunosuppressants: - Two main types of immunosuppressant that are administered to liver transplant recipients are Corticosteroids and Calcineurin inhibitors.
Corticosteroids stop the cells from releasing chemicals that can attack alien tissues and infections, whereas Calcineurin inhibitors block the effects of a protein called Calcineurin, which activates T cells, a type of white blood cell, to fight foreign infections.
Though the immunosuppressants have certain side effects, they should not be discontinued. However, due to a heavy dosage of immunosuppressant’s, a person’s capability to fight infections is reduced. They can lead to the development of life-threatening conditions, so due care should be taken during this time.
- Diagnostic Tests: - Diagnostic tests like bone density test, cardiovascular tests should be done regularly after the operation to check if the new liver is functioning properly and if there are any new complications due to the surgery.
- Blood Tests: - Regular blood tests should be performed to accurately gauge the level of health of the patient. As due to immunosuppressant’s their ability to fight infections is impaired, regular blood tests help in finding any new infections that might prove life threatening and to treat them.
- Dietary Restrictions: - Liver transplant patients should follow strict diet controls. Alcohol and tobacco consumption should be avoided and healthy diet plan should be followed. Conditions like high blood pressure, weight gain should be avoided as they may damage the new liver considerably
- Hygiene: - As the liver transplant recipients have a higher risk of catching foodborne infections, food items should be properly washed and cooked before consumption. Raw food items should be completely avoided.
- Exercise: - Regular exercise will help in faster recovery post surgery. Exercise regimen as prescribed by a physiotherapist should be followed to avoid any over exertion or other complications.
As liver transplant is a major operation, due diligence should be followed by the patients to be able to recover completely. Regular follow-up visits to the hospital are equally necessary, to carefully monitor any possible complications. Usually 2 weeks after the surgery, the patient is required to visit the hospital. During the visit, thorough tests are to be done to check if the new liver is functioning properly and to rule out any complications.
Another visit is to be undertaken after six months of the surgery, when if any T-tube was inserted during the surgery shall be removed. After another six months, one more visit is required after that only one visit per year is required for proper monitoring and rule out any health issues.
In the case of any discomfort or pain, symptoms should not be overlooked; immediate consultation with the doctors is required.
Prevention of Liver Disease
Liver Diseases can prove fatal if not attended to properly but what is equally important as treatment is prevention. Though there are some liver ailments that could be genetic most of the causes for liver diseases are lifestyle related. If you take certain precautions and lead a healthy lifestyle, then it is very much possible to prevent the onset of fatal liver diseases. Following are some of the precautions that could be undertaken to prevent yourself from those life-threatening liver ailments: -
- Vaccinations: - Hepatitis A or B is one of the most deadly viruses which can damage the entire liver and eventually prove fatal to a person. If you feel that you are at a risk of contracting Hepatitis, then there are vaccines available for Hepatitis A and B, that provide complete protection from this deadly disease.
- Moderate Alcohol Consumption: - Individuals consuming alcohol in large quantities are at an increased risk of contacting various liver diseases, some of which are even life to threaten. You should consume alcohol in moderation, to lower the risk of contracting liver diseases. Unnecessary bingeing or alcohol abuse should be strictly avoided for the sake of your liver.
- Lead an Active Lifestyle: - Obesity leads to the onset of many liver ailments like Non-Fatty Liver Disease and Cirrhosis which lead to various health complications. You should try to lead an active lifestyle to keep your weight under control.
- Avoid Unsafe Practices: - Never use needles for injecting intravenous drugs or rather stay away from drugs to be on the safer side. Always insist on a new and sterilized needle for tattooing. Always use condoms and practice safe sex as Hepatitis virus spreads through the exchange of bodily fluids.
- Avoid Self Medication: - Various types of liver complications can occur due to medical reactions. Always take the medicines, prescription, and OTC, in prescribed doses. Never mix alcohol and medicines as they can cause severe reactions. If you are taking some herbal supplements, thoroughly consult with your doctors and find out about all possible reactions before committing to it.
- Avoid Contact with bodily fluids – Hepatitis virus can also spread through accidental needle pricks as well as using shaving razor or toothbrush can also spread hepatitis virus.
- Protect your Skin: - Always cover your body completely and wear a mask while using chemicals, pesticides or aerosol sprays. If you are painting a room or applying chemicals, make sure that the room is ventilated. In the case of any giddiness, rush to a doctor for proper treatment.
- Avoid Wild Mushrooms: - Be double sure before consuming mushrooms, as it is hard to distinguish between normal and wild mushrooms. Unchecked consumption of wild mushrooms can cause serious liver complications.