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Date: 29 May 2020
Life after transplant questions and answers
- What is rejection and will I get it?
- What will my quality of life be like after the transplant?
- The skin near my wound feels numb. Is this normal?
- How long will my stitches stay in for?
- What if my wound is not fully healed before I go home?
- How soon after my transplant can I go to the swimming baths?
- Do I need a special diet after my transplant?
- How long will my new liver last?
- Can I take cold remedies?
- How soon can I go back to work?
- What if there is no one at home to help look after me?
Rejection is when the donor liver is "attacked" by your body's immune system. Anti-rejection tablets prevent this from happening.
About 40% of patients experience some acute (early) rejection. This often happens whilst still in hospital following your transplant, and is treatable. A small number of patients experience chronic (late) rejection; this is often more difficult to treat.
This will depend on many things, such as:
- why you needed a liver transplant
- how old you were at the time of the transplant
- whether you have any side effects from your medication or not
- potential complications following the transplant
- how you felt before your transplant
- your general outlook on life
- the support you have from your loved ones
Quality of life often depends on the reason for the transplant. Patients who receive a transplant due to chronic liver disease often find that their quality of life improves after their operation.
You may find it helpful to talk to a support group to help you cope with life after your transplant (see related pages section below for further details).
The skin around your wound may be numb or might tingle. This is because nerves were cut when the incision in your abdomen was made. This is common, and may last for several months after your operation.
Your stitches are removed 21 days after the operation. They will be taken out by your GP or the district nurse, or in Liver Unit outpatients.
District nurses can care for your wound at home. The progress of healing can be monitored in Liver Unit outpatients as required.
Due to the risk of infection, you should not go the public swimming baths until your wounds are completely healed. Discuss this with your doctors in Liver Unit outpatients.
You must avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice as this affects the levels of your anti-rejection medication.
Some patients need a low-sugar diet or a low-potassium diet due to side effects of their medication.
There is no time limit on how long your liver can last.
Transplanted livers have been known to last for more than 30 years, and surgical techniques and anti-rejection medication are constantly being developed and improved.
You should always check with your pharmacist before buying "over the counter" remedies. You should inform them that you have had a liver transplant and tell them what tablets you are taking.
If in doubt, you can always contact the transplant co-ordinators for advice.
Generally we advise that you do not return to work until three months after your transplant.
However, how soon you go back to work depends on how quickly you recover and the kind of work you do. You should discuss this with the doctors in Liver Unit outpatients.
Not everyone has family or friends who can be there to care for them following a transplant.
If you have no one to support you, you will be transferred to your local hospital to continue gaining strength and fitness until it is felt that you're able to cope at home. Your local hospital will be the best place to organise any community support that might be available for you.