Life After a Liver Transplant
Recovery After a Liver Transplant
The recovery rate after a liver transplant will vary from patient to patient, but in most cases, full recovery takes 2 to 4 months. After this time, the patient can resume his or her normal or near-normal routines such as going back to work, engaging in physical activities and sports, and traveling.
Immediately following the surgery, pain on and on the right side of the abdomen may be felt and can last for 1 to 2 weeks. Numbness around the incision site and fatigue can also occur, but these should subside with prescribed medicine and sufficient rest.
What to Expect and How to Stay Healthy After a Transplant
The first three months of life after a liver transplant can be relatively challenging but manageable. During this period, the team will provide self-care instructions to facilitate a quicker and fuller recovery, which include:
- Being compliant with the medications and doctors’ advice
- avoiding alcoholic drinks
- quitting smoking
- engaging in appropriate physical exercise
- consuming nutritious food such as fruits and vegetables
- avoiding food that are high in sugar, salt and saturated fats
- eating fish, poultry and lean meats
- drinking plenty of water
- maintaining a healthy body weight
- participating in regular follow-up and health check-ups
How long will it take before I feel like myself again after my transplant?
After a liver transplantation, it will take about 3 to 6 weeks for patients to get their energy back, and 3 to 6 months to completely recover from the procedure.
How can I lower my risk of organ rejection after a liver transplant?
Organ rejection is common after a liver transplant as the immune system recognises that the new liver came from a different individual. To prevent this from happening, patients must diligently take anti-rejection medicines or prescription drugs as advised by their team and attend necessary follow-up checks with their doctors.
Can I return to work after my transplant?
Most patients can return to work within 2 to 4 months after having a liver transplant.
What side effects can be expected from the medications prescribed after transplant?
After a liver transplant, patients will need to take immunosuppressive medicines to stop the body’s immune system from rejecting the new liver. Taking these medicines may come with side effects that include:
- weight gain
- osteoporosis, or weakened bones
- diabetes, increased level of sugar
- higher chances of infection
- increased blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- hair loss
Will I be able to have children after my transplant?
A liver transplant does not have any effect on an individual’s fertility. However, doctors advise waiting at least one year after the transplant before trying to conceive. This is to allow the body to fully accept the new liver and adjust to the medications that are needed to be taken regularly.
Can I have sex after my liver transplant?
Yes, doctors usually advise waiting 4 to 6 weeks to have sex. Practicing safe sex with barrier contraception is highly recommended, as the patient is more vulnerable to catching sexually transmitted infections during their recovery as they have lower immunity at this time.
What are the signs of possible organ rejection?
Rejection of a new organ is not uncommon, as the body sees it as foreign. Some indicators of organ rejection are:
- yellowing of the skin and eyes
- dark-coloured urine
- fever greater than 38°C
- severe headache
- abdominal pain
- chest pain
- fewer urine outputs
When should I call the doctor if I’m not feeling well?
Having a liver transplant can come with complications, which include infections, high cholesterol and blood
pressure, kidney and bile problems, bleeding disorders and rejection of the new liver. Patients should seek
immediate medical attention at the onset of these symptoms.
Eligible people with seriously diseased livers can opt for a new, healthy liver through liver transplantation from the national deceased donor program or from a live donor. It is a life-saving surgery and the quality of life and life expectancy after a liver transplant is good.
Surgical Associates offers living donor liver transplantation in Singapore. They guide the patient through the process of waiting for a liver donor, to the actual transplant itself, to post-surgical care. For more information, call 6454 0054 or www.surgicalassociates.sg/liver-transplant.html.