Liver Transplant Surgery

When a compatible liver donor is found, you will be notified by a member of the liver transplant team. At that time, you will be given instructions about coming to the hospital for your transplant. We advise you not to bring any valuables with you, such as jewelry, money, or expensive clothing.

Once you have been checked in at the hospital, you will be taken to the operating room. There, the anesthesiologist will insert intravenous needles for administration of medications and blood and for taking blood samples. Medications will be given to make you fall asleep. A catheter will be inserted into your bladder to drain urine, and a tube that goes into your lungs will be attached to a respirator to breathe for you during surgery and for a short period of time afterwards.

The transplant surgeons will make a Y-shaped incision in your abdomen to remove your liver and replace it with your new one. Three small tubes known as Jackson Pratt (JP) drains will come out of your incision to drain fluid from around your new liver. They will remain in place until the drainage stops. A tube called a T-tube may be placed in your bile duct. This tube comes out of your body, usually on the right side, and drains bile into a bag. The T-tube usually is disconnected from the bag and capped off in five to seven days. The capped off tube will stay in place for approximately three to six months after your transplant. A nasogastric (NG) tube will be placed through your nose and into your stomach to keep it from filling with air until normal bowel functions return.

Your family will be asked to wait for you in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) waiting area. We will make every effort to keep them informed of your progress. If your family chooses to wait somewhere other than the ICU waiting area, they should inform the ICU nursing staff of their location.

The surgery usually lasts from six to eight hours, but may take considerably longer in some patients. When the surgery is over, one of the surgeons will speak with your family. You will be taken directly to the ICU. Your family will be able to visit you for the first time about one hour after your arrival in the ICU. Each time your family members visit, they first will be asked to wash their hands at the sink inside your room. This is required of all visitors at all times. Handwashing is also required of all members of the liver transplant team. As you begin to recuperate and feel stronger, the tubes and catheters will be removed.