After surgery: you will be in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for at least two days, where the nurses and the transplant team will monitor you closely. Here is what to expect:
Your vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, breathing and temperature) and blood sugars will be checked constantly.
Your urine output will be measured hourly.
Frequent labs and X-rays will be done.
You will have intravenous catheters in your hand, arm or neck for drawing blood.
You will be on a ventilator (breathing machine) that will breathe for you. You may remain on it for several days, depending on how sick you were before the transplant, how difficult your surgery was and whether your new liver starts working right away.
When you can breathe easily on your own, and the breathing tube will be removed, after which you will be asked to turn in bed, cough and breathe deeply at least every one to two hours while you're awake.
As your liver starts working normally and you require less monitoring, you will be moved to the Transplant Unit.
What else to expect:
When you go home:
- You will be weighed daily.
- You will be given medicine to control pain.
- You will be given a breathing-exercise device to help improve the air movement in your lungs.
- As soon as it is safe to do so, the nurses and physical therapists will help you start sitting up and walking.
- You will have slow bowel action for a few days.
- You will be taught how to clean and care for your incision.
- When your bowels start working again, your diet will be advanced from ice chips, to liquids, to a regular diet. Your IVs will be removed when you are ready to go home.
When you return to normal activities depends on how closely you follow the instructions you received in the hospital, how quickly you recover and the kind of activity you want to do. Some things to remember:
- Heavy lifting should be avoided for at least the first six weeks, to prevent a hernia.
- To avoid infection, no swimming, hot tubs or saunas until your incision heals completely and the transplant team gives the go-ahead.
- No driving until the team says so (usually about three months after your transplant)
- Slowly increase your activity and exercise, but don't do too much too soon. Talk with your transplant team about exercise specifics.
- It is common to return to school and perform non-strenuous work within a few months after surgery, especially if you were active prior to transplant.
- You will always need medical care after your transplant, but over time the need for return visits will decrease. The transplant coordinators will work with you to manage your healthcare needs after your transplant and will keep in contact with the transplant team and your family doctors.