The liver is an important organ In the human body; it is wedge-shaped with 4 unequal lobes. It is the heaviest organ in our body and also is the largest gland. It is reddish in color and is situated on the right side of the abdomen.
Functions of the Liver
1. Detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes medications.
2. Manufactures proteins which is important for clotting of blood, as well as for other functions.
3. Filters blood en route from the digestive tract, before it flows to the rest of the body.
4. The liver works in conjunction with parts of the pancreas, and the small intestines to digest, absorb and process food.
Unique Quality of the Liver
The only organ in the body that can regenerate injured or lost tissue is the Liver. Therefore, when a piece of liver has been taken from a healthy, live donor, the liver in both the donor and the recipient will grow back to its normal size and both the live donor and the recipient will be able to lead a normal and healthy life.
A donor can be healthy and living or the liver could come from a person who is brain dead because of a fatal accident or other reasons.
With this foreknowledge in mind, let us examine why a liver transplant is necessary.
No one can live without a liver that does not function properly. A transplantation would be recommended when a patient has liver failure or end-stage liver disease.
When an organ in the body fails to function, it is always a life-threatening situation and liver failure can be caused by quite a few conditions:
- Cirrhosis of the liver is a chronic, end-stage disease that occurs when healthy tissue is replace by scarred tissue
- Acute Hepatic Necrosis occurs when the tissue in the liver, dies, possibly due to an acute infection, medications or due to toxins
- Biliary Atresia is a rare disease that affects newborns, when the liver and bile ducts are affected
- Viral Hepatitis is a very common cause in the form of Hepatitis B or C
- Metabolic Diseases a disorder that changes the chemical activity of the cells that are affected by the liver
- Primary Liver Cancers, where tumors originated in the liver
- Autoimmune Hepatitis occurs when the body’s auto immune system attacks the liver, and a swelling or redness develops
The transplant surgery to replace the non-functioning liver takes between 6 to 12 hours. During the surgery the patient will have several tubes in their body. These tubes help the body to continue certain functions during and after the surgery, which could be for a few days, post-surgery.
After the surgery, the stay in the hospital will be (for most patients) around 2 to 3 weeks, but some could be discharged earlier or retained, depending on their progress. On discharge the patient will have follow up visits so that the doctor can check on the functioning of the liver and it may take up until 6 months for a patient to feel fully healed. Normal activities and work may be resumed after a few months.