How long does liver transplant surgery take?
The surgery for donor and recipient is usually synchronized to ensure minimal storage damage for the donor’s liver. In the case of a deceased donor transplant, the surgery for the patient starts after the donor’s liver has been assessed and found satisfactory.
It takes time for the operation to start as the patient is taken to the operation theatre and prepped for the surgery, which takes 2 hours. The donors, as well as recipients, are given general anesthesia during the surgery and they remain asleep, with no consciousness, pain, during the operation.
They are also put on a ventilator and various lines/catheters (arterial line, central line, endotracheal tube, urinary catheter, and others) are used to monitor their health status.
This surgery takes about 6 – 8 hours. For a living donor operation, a portion of the liver is taken, which can be done using different types of incisions or even with laparoscopy (keyhole) surgery. The choice of the incision will depend on the donor’s anatomy and is usually made during surgery.
The transplant surgeons consider the factors, such as the cosmetic results and safety, while choosing an incision. The liver is split in two parts, and one of these parts is removed along with the blood vessels and bile ducts associated with the lobe, while the other half is left in the donor with its blood vessels and bile ducts intact.
A drain tube is kept in the abdomen to drain the fluid and manage to bleed. The incision line is closed with absorbable sutures or staples.
This surgery generally takes 8 – 12 hours. The patient’s damaged liver, along with gall bladder, is removed to make space for the new donor liver. The cirrhotic liver is usually shrunken and has multiple thin-walled blood vessels around it under high pressure.
The new liver is transplanted by connecting all blood vessels and allowing blood circulation through the liver. The liver usually starts working immediately after transplantation. Bile ducts of the new liver are joined with the bile duct or directly with the intestine in the patient’s body.
A drain tube is kept in the abdomen to manage any bleeding and drain fluid. The incision is closed using staples.