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. We will tell you that we have a potential donor and then ask how you have been feeling physically. If you have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, we may not be able to do the transplant. The most important thing you can do while waiting for a transplant is to seek treatment quickly if you become ill, so that you will be ready at any time should a donor liver become available. The first call you get does not always mean the transplant will occur. We will tell you that we have a potential donor. The surgeon examines each donor organ and may find that the organ is not strong and healthy. If the donor organ is not functioning well, we will not do the transplant. This does not happen often, but it is a possibility.

Leaving for the Hospital

You need to go directly to Emory as soon as you have finished talking with the coordinator. If you have difficulty driving to the hospital, please call the coordinator and we will try to help you get there safely. We would not want you to lose a chance for a new liver because your car broke down. If you have arranged to fly, you will need to contact the air ambulance service immediately for departure and arrival times and then tell your coordinator. We can then anticipate when you will arrive at Emory.

Arriving at the Hospital

When you arrive at Emory University Hospital, please drive to the valet entrance on Clifton Road, then go directly to Admissions located on the second (2nd) floor of the hospital. Sign in under the surgeon’s name. The admissions personnel will direct you to your room where you will be prepared for surgery. This time will be very hectic. Several final procedures such as blood tests, chest X- ray and an EKG may need to be done. A transplant surgeon and an anesthesiologist will also talk with you, and you must sign a Consent for Surgical Operation.

Liver Transplant Surgery

On the same day or the next morning, 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 and will drain your 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 an incision in your abdomen to remove your liver and replace it with your new one. 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 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. Hand washing 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.