What to Expect After Your Liver Transplant

The extraordinary care you received at Nebraska Medicine does not end when you leave the hospital. Once you return home, our liver transplant team will continue to follow and monitor your progress. If you, your family, or your physician have any questions or concerns, we are always here to help.

About the Operation

Your liver transplant operation should take between five to seven hours to complete.

  • First, a surgical incision is made underneath your rib cage. The next several hours are spent removing your damaged liver. It then takes about 45 to 60 minutes to sew the four blood vessels to your new, healthy liver and restore blood flow.
  • Once blood flow is re-established, there may be some bleeding that can last for several minutes or hours. After that bleeding is controlled, the bile duct will be reconnected.
  • Before the abdomen is closed, the gallbladder is removed from the donor liver. This is done to prevent gallstones from forming and causing problems with your new liver. The final step of the operation is to close the abdomen.

After the Operation

After surgery, you will be taken directly to our intensive care unit (ICU).

  • You can expect to spend one to two days in the ICU before moving to the solid organ transplant unit.
  • Our transplant team will then focus on helping you to resume normal activity and diet as quickly as possible. Your diet will begin with clear liquids and progress to a no-added-salt diet as soon as you are able to tolerate solid foods.
  • With the assistance of physical therapy, we will encourage you to get out of bed and be active as much as possible.
  • You can expect to stay in the hospital for approximately two weeks after your liver transplant operation.

Potential Complications

At Nebraska Medicine, we have some of the most experienced physicians and nurses working to prevent the complications that can occur following a liver transplant. As with any major surgery however, complications may still arise, such as:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Rejection of the new liver
  • Infection
  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Diabetes

Inpatient Care

After your liver transplant, you may find your life has changed in several ways.

  • You will be able to resume normal activities, but should avoid heavy lifting for the first month post transplant. You will also receive dietary instructions that may include eliminating salt at the table.
  • Some patients, typically children, will require naso-gastric tube feedings for a period of time to support wound healing, strength and growth. A transplant dietitian will be available to answer your nutritional questions.
  • Before you leave the hospital, a transplant coordinator and transplant pharmacist will go over your discharge instructions and provide you with a detailed instructional notebook.

Outpatient Care

After you leave the hospital:

  • You will need to stay in the Omaha area for several weeks to continue outpatient care. During this time, we will monitor your lab work and see you in our transplant clinic weekly, or as needed. The time spent in Omaha gives you and your family time to become familiar with your medical plan of care. It also allows our transplant team to adjust your medication and address any other concerns that might arise.

When you return home:

  • Your local doctor will take over your care. However, our transplant team will continue to monitor your lab work and adjust your anti-rejection medications. We will also follow any health problems or concerns that arise.
  • If we do not feel we can safely handle a medical issue over the phone, we may ask you to return to Omaha. Most patients return to Nebraska Medicine at least once a year for a follow-up visit.