Liver Transplant: The Surgery, Recovery And Quality Of Life | Q&A

Liver transplant procedures, typically spanning four to eight hours, begin with the patient arriving at the hospital, often the night before. The operation includes about two hours of anesthesia preparation before the surgery starts. Surgeons then remove the diseased liver and sew in the new one in the same anatomical position.

Post-surgery, patients are taken to the intensive care unit, usually with a breathing tube still in place. They stay in the ICU for two days, followed by eight to ten days in the regular hospital ward, and can return home within two weeks. Full recovery may take up to three months, after which patients generally return to their normal, healthy state.

At Johns Hopkins, the liver transplant team emphasizes a multidisciplinary approach, involving hepatologists, dietitians, and pharmacists to ensure comprehensive patient care. Patients typically have a large incision resembling a Mercedes-Benz emblem under the rib cage. The procedure significantly restores patients’ quality of life, enabling them to resume regular activities, with some even participating in the Olympics post-recovery. Additionally, Johns Hopkins is pioneering research in treating hepatitis C and developing drug therapies to reduce the need for lifelong immunosuppressive medications, aiming for patients to eventually tolerate their new organs without them.