If you receive a donated liver, you are among a select group of people given a second chance at life. Dedicated and highly skilled liver transplant surgeons in the Sutter Health network perform an average of 70 liver transplants each year, consistently achieving statistically better-than-expected patient outcomes.
A liver transplant operation is among the most complex performed by surgeons. Typically, liver transplant surgery lasts up to six hours. During surgery, your liver transplant surgeon inspects the donor liver and marks structures to be connected during surgery, then makes an upside-down Y mark on your abdomen.
Your surgeon blocks blood flow from the major veins and arteries that supply the liver using clamps, prior to detaching the diseased organ and removing it from the body. The new liver, which is kept on ice in a nutrient bath, is positioned inside your body: first the veins are connected, followed by the hepatic artery and bile duct. After ensuring the organ is working properly, your surgeon closes the incision using surgical staples.
Intensive Care Unit
After surgery, you’ll wake up in California Pacific Medical Center’s intensive care unit (ICU), a specialized unit with close monitoring. During the wake-up period, you’ll have a tube in your windpipe to help with breathing until you are fully awake and strong enough to breathe on your own. When it is safe for you to leave the ICU, you will be transferred to the transplant unit.
Liver Transplant Unit
In the transplant unit, our team’s focus shifts to getting you up, walking and eating. You’ll start physical therapy immediately, and once your appetite improves and your bowels are working, you will eat regular food that's low in salt. Our staff run blood tests daily and may order imaging studies. If we suspect rejection, a liver biopsy may be done. Rejection is common and does not mean you are losing your liver. Medications that treat rejection are usually very effective.
Typically, you should expect to spend five to seven days in the hospital, although it could be more or less depending on your condition.
A Liver Transplant That Forever Changed a Life
At age 24, Kathleen Killips suffered acute liver failure that ultimately led to a successful transplant at Sutter Health affiliated CPMC.