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Organ Transplant Surgery

After weeks, months, or perhaps years of waiting, the big day is here. You're headed to the hospital for your organ transplant surgery. While many of your questions about the surgery have probably been answered by now, you may still be wondering what exactly to expect.

Here's information from the experts, who emphasize that these are only guidelines. You are unique and your recovery and hospitalization experience may be, too.

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The Organ Transplant Surgery

You, along with your family and friends, no doubt want to know: How long will this take? The time required to perform your organ transplant surgery depends on the organ being transplanted and a host of other factors, says Marwan Abouljoud, MD, director of the Transplant Institute at Henry Ford Hospital System in Detroit.

The actual operating time to transplant a liver ranges from about 5 to 8 hours, for example, although on some occasions it takes less time. If you've had previous surgery on that organ or a previous transplant, you have to add to that.

Kidney transplants generally take four to five hours, while pancreas transplants require two to four hours and combined pancreas and kidney can require five to seven. Other transplant surgery times differ so much that it's difficult to give a range. In those cases, it is best to ask your surgeon if he or she can estimate the time.

Recovering From Organ Transplant Surgery

How long you can expect to stay in the hospital after your organ transplant surgery depends on a number of factors -- how sick you were when you went in and how well the surgery went, to name two.

Typically, a liver patient is sent to the intensive care or critical care unit for a time, Abouljoud says. But kidney patients, for instance, don't routinely go to ICU, says Penelope Loughhead, LMSW, a transplant social worker at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, speaking of the routine at her facility.

You will be allowed visitors as soon as your doctor decides you are well enough, and that is often sooner than you might expect. Depending on how you're feeling, it may be even the same day as your surgery, says Diane Kasper, RN, heart transplant coordinator at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix.

The emphasis is on getting you up and active soon after transplant surgery. Heart transplant patients, Kasper says, are often sitting up in a chair within one or two days.

Length of stay in the hospital varies, too. For kidney transplants, it's often four or five days. For kidney and pancreas, it may be seven to 10 days. After liver transplants, patients are often kept seven to 10 days.

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