vital signs
1 / 13

After Surgery

The operation will take at least 6 hours. You won't feel or remember anything during it because you'll be under general anesthesia. Then you'll go to a recovery room or the ICU. There, nurses will check your breathing, pulse, blood pressure, and temperature often to make sure you're doing OK. You may have an oxygen mask on your face. You'll feel groggy as the anesthesia wears off.

Swipe to advance
woman with IV
2 / 13

When You're Fully Awake

You'll notice more tubes than the IV you went into surgery with. You're going to hurt a lot, so you'll get a PCA pump. It gives a steady stream of pain medicine, and you can also push a button to get extra when you need it. A tube drains fluid from your big surgical wound. Another goes to your bladder and collects your pee so you don't have to get up, and one in your nose goes to your stomach to help keep your digestive system calm.

Swipe to advance
hospital bed
3 / 13

Move to a Patient Room

If you don't have any bleeding or other problems, this will be your home for at least the next 3-7 days. You could feel well enough to sit up and even stand or take a few steps -- with help. You might wear special boots that boost your circulation and keep blood clots from forming. During the next few days, you'll do breathing exercises to clear your lungs and prevent pneumonia.

Swipe to advance
woman eating hospital food
4 / 13

Days 1-2 After Surgery

You'll be helped out of bed to walk the morning after surgery. Walking is important for a speedy recovery. It will help kick-start your bowels so you can eat and drink again. At first, you'll get clear liquids. When you can keep them down, you'll soon change to solid foods.

Once you're able to drink, you may switch to pain pills. IVs and other tubes will be removed as you improve and no longer need them.

Swipe to advance
person holding iv stand
5 / 13

Days 3-7

Doctors and nurses will make sure you're recovering well and give you tests to see how your liver is doing. You'll walk more and should feel a little bit better each day. You'll be able to leave the hospital when your pain is well-controlled, you're eating and drinking normally, and you can walk without too much trouble.

Swipe to advance
woman in car
7 / 13

Discharge Day

You'll get a prescription for pain pills and instructions on how to take care of yourself at home (or where you'll be staying if you don't live near the transplant center). You won't be able to drive yet, so arrange for a ride. Expect to be tired and weak. Ask a friend or family member to shop for food, prepare meals, and generally help you out for the next few days.

Swipe to advance
walking and drinking water
8 / 13

First Week Home

Walk as much as you can and drink plenty of water. To protect the incision that's healing and prevent a hernia, don't lift anything heavier than 10-15 pounds for the first month. Your pain should be getting better. You probably won't need your prescription pain pills by the end of the week.

Swipe to advance
woman talking with doctor
9 / 13

7-10 Days After Discharge

You'll see the doctor and get blood tests a week or so after you leave the hospital. If you had staples or stitches that didn't dissolve, they'll be removed. Call the care team at any time if there's drainage or swelling around your surgical wound or you have a fever. These are signs you may have an infection.

Swipe to advance
person refusing beer
10 / 13

2 Weeks After Surgery

If you had to travel to the transplant center, it may be OK for you to fly home now. It depends on how you feel and if you're doing well.

Amazingly, what's left of your liver has begun growing to fill in the space left by the part that was removed. You should be kind to it as it heals. For the next 6 months, stay away from alcohol and any drugs or supplements that may damage it. Ask your doctor if you're not sure what's safe.

Swipe to advance
woman driving
11 / 13

3-5 Weeks

Grab the keys -- you're back in the driver's seat! Before you start the car, make sure you're not in any pain and off of all strong painkillers. You need to be alert with normal reflexes behind the wheel.

Continue to eat well, drink plenty of water, and go on a lot of short walks. You shouldn't lift anything over 30 pounds yet.

Swipe to advance
mature man exercising
12 / 13

6-12 Weeks

Your liver is almost back to its normal size. Hopefully, you feel like your old self again. Start slow and easy, and you can probably do most normal activities like exercise and having sex (with birth control, if you're a woman). You may be able to go back to work by 6-8 weeks, but if your job is physical, you may have to wait a few more. You can start planning a trip or vacation now. After 3 months, it's OK to lift heavier things.

Swipe to advance
scar
13 / 13

6 Months, 1 Year, and Beyond

You need to schedule regular follow-up visits to make sure you're doing well and your liver is working as it should. Usually, these appointments happen at 6 months and at 1 and 2 years after surgery. Some transplant centers want to see you once a year for 5 years.

After the first year, it's safe to get pregnant.

Your scar will likely soften with time, but it will always be a visible reminder that you gave someone else the gift of life.

Swipe to advance

Up Next

Next Slideshow Title

Sources | Medically Reviewed on 08/24/2018 Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on August 24, 2018

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

1) Thinkstock

2) Thinkstock

3) Thinkstock

4) Thinkstock

5) Getty

6) Thinkstock

7) Thinkstock

8) Thinkstock

9) Thinkstock

10) Thinkstock

11) Thinkstock

12) Thinkstock

 

SOURCES:

Debra L. Sudan, MD, chief, division of abdominal transplant surgery, Duke University Hospital, Durham, NC.

Mount Sinai Hospital: "Liver Donation Surgery and Recovery."

University of Minnesota Health: "Living Donor Liver Transplant."

"What You Need to Know About Adult Living Donor Liver Transplantation: A Patient Guide," Cleveland Clinic, 2014.

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "What to Expect as a Liver Donor."

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on August 24, 2018

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

NEXT IN THE SERIES

From WebMD

More on Living-Donor Liver Transplants