Most people do well after a living-donor transplant. You may be back to regular activities within a few weeks or months. Everyone’s different, but here’s what to expect in general.
At the Hospital
After surgery, you’ll probably stay in the hospital for about a week. Most donors stay about 4-7 days. Most recipients stay about 7 days.
You may feel some pain, especially the first week. Your doctor will give you medication to help. Some pain medication has side effects. These include:
- Changes in your breathing
You’ll likely feel better and better as time passes. Some pain and discomfort may linger for about 2-4 weeks. Your incision, or where the doctor cut you, will probably heal quickly. Your scar will fade and become less noticeable.
When you leave the hospital, your medical team will give you details about your follow-up treatment. This may include office visits and lab tests to make sure your surgery and recovery are successful.
Your doctor will likely prescribe several medications to take after surgery. They include:
- Medications to ward off infections
- Medication to treat side effects, ease pain, or help with other conditions
- Immunosuppressants, or anti-rejection medication (if you’re a recipient)
If you’re a donor, you’ll probably stop taking medication a few weeks after surgery. If you’re a recipient, you may take immunosuppressants for the rest of your life so your body doesn’t reject your new liver.
Most donors fully recover in 3-6 weeks. Most recipients fully recover in 3-6 months. But it depends on your age, your overall health, and other things.
Here’s what you can generally expect:
- You’ll likely be able to eat, drink, shower, and walk when you leave the hospital.
- Your liver will regenerate, or grow back to normal size, in about 2 months.
- You’ll likely be back to work and doing regular activities about 2-3 months after surgery.
What to Do at Home
Stay in close contact with your transplant team and primary care doctor after you leave the hospital. Pay attention to your medication plan. Ask your team how you can keep infection at bay. Taking good care of yourself improves the chance the transplant will be successful.
If you’re a recipient, it’s important to keep up with your immunosuppression medications. That’s the most common cause of organ failure after transplant.
You should also:
- Make good lifestyle choices. (Don’t smoke or drink.)
- Eat healthy foods.
- Drink lots of water.
- Ask for help from others, whether it’s for household chores or child care.
- Give yourself time to heal.
After surgery, you may wonder how much work you can do or if you can have sex. Here’s what else you should know:
Work life. You may be able to get back to work a few months after your transplant. Many people go back within 3 months. If it seems like too much at the beginning, try easing in with lighter tasks before taking on all of your regular duties.
Sex life. You may be able to get back to your usual sexual activity after you leave the hospital. It may take time for your libido to return. Some things may be different after your transplant. For example, you may be more likely to conceive a baby than you were before. Talk to your doctor about birth control.
Having kids. If you’re thinking about having children, you may want to wait at least a year after your transplant. Many women have healthy babies after a transplant, but they tend to have lower birth weights. It’s best to work closely with your obstetrician and transplant team. They may change your medication, recommend monthly lab tests, and want to see you more often.