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Liver Transplant

Importance of Liver and what is Liver Transplant

Just as it is said that the heart is the center of the circulatory system of the body, our liver heads the chemical processing system of our body. It contributes towards all metabolic processes, has a significant role in digestion and synthesizing of important proteins and enzymes, and plays a crucial role in blood clotting too. Did you also know that the liver is the largest organ of our body?
 
Thus, it is obvious that a human body needs a health liver to function rightly and that it cannot live without it. Although the liver has self-healing capabilities wherein it replaces damaged tissues with new cells, there are cases wherein the damage to the liver cannot be reversed and medical intervention is needed. This is when a liver transplant is spoken about.
 
In very simple terms, a liver transplant is an operation that replaces a patient’s unhealthy liver with a whole or partial healthy liver from another person. It is generally a last-resort measure for chronic and severe acute liver diseases.

When is a Liver Transplant needed?

Liver transplants are done when all other measures for treating the liver aren’t enough to keep the person alive.
 
Typical cases that warrant a liver transplant are:
 

  • Chronic liver diseases:
    • This happens when a liver undergoes repeated injury (and repair) over years which eventually scars it permanently. The medical term for this condition is Cirrhosis of liver.
    • Although liver transplant is unavoidable, patients suffering from this can generally live for years.
  • Acute liver conditions:
    • This happens when a normal liver gets suddenly injured and shows signs of inadequate liver function.
    • This could happen due to viral infection, Tylenol overdose, injection of toxins or some drugs.
    • Unlike chronic liver disease patients, patients with acute liver conditions only have hours to days to live and hence are given highest priority in the liver transplant list.  

 
However, there are certain exceptions wherein irrespective of either of the above 2 conditions, liver transplants are not done:
 

  • Active and continued substance abuse (Drugs/ Alcohol)
  • Advanced heart and lung disease
  • Active liver cancer that may have spread to other parts of the body
  • Heightened body infection

 

Types of donors

Finding a suitable donor includes finding a matchon the following aspects:
 

  • Right blood time
  • Similar body weight

 
It is crucial that once on the list, a patient should maintain good health by eating nutritious food, exercising well and by undergoing regular checkups and other preventive measures. This is important because the wait time for finding the right donor can be a long one.

There are 3 types of donors that doctors essentially scout for:
 

  • Living donors
    • It is possible to donate a portion of the liver to a patient since a liver has the capability to grow back to its original size and does so in the donor’s as well as the patient’s body post operation.
    • Although this process was envisioned for young children since finding a donor for them was tougher, it is now being used for adult-to-adult transplants too.
    • A family member or loved one can volunteer to give a part of his/her liver. Right tests and measurements need to be done before considering this route and hence its best to meet your doctor with the volunteer and discuss this possibility in detail.
  • Brain dead organ donors
    • These cases result into maximum number of donors for liver transplant.
    • Brain dead organ donors are those for whom a massive trauma has stopped all brain functions even though other organs including the liver continue to function normally.
    • The organ is procured from the body and due diligence is taken in preserving it till it reaches the rightful recipient.
  • Cardiac death organ donors
    • After a family takes the tough decision of taking the patient off life-sustaining medical support to let him/her expire, an operation is performed to quickly remove organs for preservation and eventual transplant.  

 
Do note that in none of the above cases, does the gender or the race of the donor impact the patient/recipient in any way. It is gender/ physical attributes agnostic procedure.

Possible risks and complications post-transplant include:
 

  • Rejection of new liver by the recipient’s body due to undeterminable reasons
  • Internal bleeding
  • Damage to the bile ducts
  • Blood clots
  • Lower immunity

 

Why FORTIS?

As much as there is hope and optimism, it is crucial that patients and their families understand the process in detail, appreciate the challenges that are generally faced and learn to recognize symptoms that need to be escalated to the doctor at an urgent basis. Its reassuring to know there are few hospitals in India that leave no stone unturned in keeping all up to speed by doing the right diagnosis, having detailed discussions with the patients and their families to explain the procedure in detail and then performing transplants with international standards of accuracy and success rate.
 
Fortis has one of the largest and most comprehensive organ transplant programs in India with excellent medical care and facilities for pre and post-transplant management. Their liver care and transplantation team is led by the esteemed Dr. Yashvanth Kumar, Dr. Sumana Kolar Ramachandra and Dr. Mahesh Gopasetty. With a combined experience of more than 25 years, they have successfully performed over 2000 transplants. They have commendable expertise in all types of liver transplants (living and deceased donor), pediatric liver transplants, pancreas transplants and complex liver surgeries. They are also adept at delivering the best care for all benign diseases and cancers of the liver, biliary track and the pancreas.