Liver transplantation is a large and complex operation, but one that is performed routinely in the United States. Recovery after transplant depends largely on how sick the patient was at the time of transplantation, and on the function of the new liver. Most patients remain in the hospital after transplant for about two weeks. During the hospital stay, patients recover in a specialized transplant unit at Montefiore Medical Center (Foreman North 7AE), which has specially trained nurses and staff that are familiar with all aspects of transplant recovery. The transplant team includes a surgeon, hepatologist, pharmacist, social worker and nutritionist who actively manage all patients admitted to the transplant unit. During the hospitalization, patients and their families receive daily education on medications, signs and symptoms to watch for after discharge, follow-up care and acceptable activities. At discharge, most patients are able to eat a regular diet and walk.
All patients receiving transplants need medications to suppress the immune system and other medications to prevent infection. At discharge, most patients receive seven to eight medications, taken two or three times daily. Our doctors carefully regulate and adjust the quantity and dosage of medication. After six months to a year, our doctors may reduce or eliminate many medications. Many patients take only one or two medications at the end of the first year.
Montefiore's overall success rates for liver transplantation are approximately 85 percent. The team reviews potential side effects and complications in detail during transplant education. Most patients experience some side effects or complications before or after transplantation, but fortunately most of these are minor. In some types of diseases, like hepatitis C or liver cancer, the disease can recur after liver transplantation. The team will discuss the risks of recurrence with you, including options for treatment for recurrence. Rejection, which occurs when the body's immune system attacks the new liver, occurs in about 20 to 30 percent of patients after transplantation. Fortunately, most rejection episodes are easily treated with medication and do not cause long-term damage to the liver.