Organ Transplant: At the Hospital

The big day is here! You're headed to the hospital for your organ transplant surgery.

Here's an idea of what you can expect. Keep in mind that these are only general facts. You're unique, so your experience will be, too.

The Transplant Surgery Team

The team approach is standard. A host of people will be taking care of you.

Of course, you'll have your transplant surgeon and transplant doctor. Other team members typically can include:

  • The transplant coordinator
  • An intensive care or critical care specialist
  • An infectious disease doctor
  • Nurses
  • A pharmacist
  • A dietitian
  • A physical therapist
  • An occupational therapist
  • A psychiatrist or psychologist
  • A social worker
  • A financial coordinator

Smaller transplant centers may have fewer people.

How Long Will It Take?

It depends on what organ you're getting, along with many other things. For example, you may spend less time in the operating room if you've already had surgery on that organ or a previous transplant.

Transplant surgery times differ a lot. A few examples include:

  • Liver, 5 to 8 hours
  • Kidney, 4 to 5 hours
  • Pancreas, 2 to 4 hours
  • Both kidney and pancreas, 5 to 7 hours

Your surgeon can give you a better estimate, taking into account your specific circumstances.

Your Recovery

Again, it depends in part on what surgery you have, as well as the standard process your hospital follows. Right after the operation, you may go to an intensive care or critical care unit.

You'll be able to see visitors as soon as your doctor decides you're well enough. That's often sooner than you might expect. If you're feeling good, it may even be the same day as your surgery.

During recovery, the emphasis is on getting you up and active. You'll likely be sitting in a chair within a day or two.

How long you can expect to stay in the hospital varies, too. Your care team will consider things like how sick you were when you went in and how well your surgery went.

For kidney transplants, it's often 4 or 5 days; for kidney and pancreas, it may be 7 to 10 days. Liver transplants are also often 7 to 10 days.

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Before You Leave the Hospital

Although you may be tired, pay attention to the information you'll get about what comes next.

You'll have to take drugs to prevent organ rejection, called immunosuppressants. Make sure you understand your medications, and know how to recognize side effects so you can let your doctor know right away if there's a problem.

Be aware of the possible complications of your surgery, too, so you can tell if something isn't right.

Ask about limits on your daily activity as well as driving restrictions, so you can arrange for someone to help you get through the day and to lend a hand around your home if you'll need it. Remember: Your social worker is key to this process. They can help you figure out your options and find the support you'll need.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on 4/, 016

Sources

SOURCES: 

Marwan Abouljoud, director, Transplant Institute, Henry Ford Hospital System, Detroit.

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "The Transplant Team."

Penelope Loughhead, LMSW, transplant social worker, Memorial Hermann Hospital, Houston.

Diane Kasper, RN, heart transplant coordinator, Mayo Clinic Hospital, Phoenix.

United Network for Organ Sharing.

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