In the weeks prior to the live donor surgery and until you are fully recovered, you must avoid smoking and drinking alcohol. You may need to stop taking certain medications.
The Surgical Procedure for Liver Donation
Liver donor surgery is typically scheduled in the morning. You and the liver recipient will be admitted into the hospital’s pre-op area two hours before surgery. Your family may accompany you. An IV will be placed, and your abdominal area may need to be shaved.
When you’re taken into the operating room, your family will be asked to wait for you in the surgical waiting area. The live donor coordinator will meet with them there and discuss a plan to keep them updated on the progress of your surgery.
Our anesthesiologists will administer sedation through the IV to put you to sleep. Once you are asleep, the team will insert a tube in your throat that will connect to a machine that helps you breathe (a ventilator). They will also insert a tube (a Foley catheter) into your urethra and into your bladder to allow urine to drain during the surgery.
You will have an incision in your abdomen that will be closed with sutures at the conclusion of your liver transplant surgery. You will also have a drain on the outside of your body along the surgery area to allow the escape of fluids that accumulate during recovery.
Your total hospital stay may last from 4 to 7 days, depending on the speed of your recovery from surgery. You will be discharged after your surgery when you are capable of urinating, walking and eating on your own. You will not be allowed to drive yourself home, so we require that you arrange for a friend or family to take you back home when the time comes. This is done for your safety, as you will not yet have enough strength to operate a car.
Keep in mind that you will need to visit the hospital about a week after your discharge and again about 2-3 weeks later. If you live a distance away, Lahey can make arrangements to accommodate you at a nearby hotel.
Liver Donor Recovery Timeline
Here is what you can generally expect during your recovery:
- In 2-3 weeks: Your liver function will normalize.You will be allowed to drive again when you regain your physical strength and stop taking pain medications.
- By 6 to 12 weeks: Your activity level will increase and you may wish to return to work or school. Some people heal quicker than others, so this time varies greatly from donor to donor.
- In 2 to 3 months: Your liver volume will have regenerated to at least 80% its original size. Most patients report feeling “completely normal” and nearly all donors are back to work or school
- If you are a woman and planning to become pregnant, we recommend that you wait 6 months to allow your body to recover from donation.