The liver is part of the digestive system and is located in the upper right side of the abdomen. It has several life-sustaining functions: it processes nutrients, produces proteins, stores sugar or glycogen, and it also controls hormone levels, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and fluid retention. The liver filters unwanted substances from the blood and helps the body fight infection.
Injury to liver cells from alcohol abuse, hepatitis, or birth defects can gradually impair the liver's ability to function efficiently.
When liver cells begin to die, the dead cells are replaced with scar tissue. Scar tissue prevents the circulation of blood through the liver, leaving it unable to store nutrients and filter unwanted substances. When liver function becomes severely compromised, a liver transplant may be necessary.
During liver transplantation, the diseased liver is removed and replaced with a compatible, healthy liver from a deceased donor.
Periodic blood tests are used to evaluate how well the new liver is functioning. As with any organ transplant, the liver recipient will require life-long treatment with medications that suppress the immune response; this will help to prevent the body's immune system from rejecting the transplanted liver.
There are several potential complications associated with this procedure that should be discussed with a doctor prior to surgery.