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What Happens When a Donor Is Found?

When a suitable donor is found the hospital will contact you. This can happen at any time, day or night. You will either be offered transport to the hospital or you can choose to make your own way there.

You must stop eating and drinking immediately as soon as you receive the phone call. If you have diabetes, tell your transplant coordinator.

When you arrive at the hospital you will be taken to a ward where your doctor will go through your medical history and you will have a chest X-ray and an ECG. You will be required to wash with an antiseptic soap in readiness for the operation.

An anaesthetist will give you an injection, called a pre-med, to help you relax. A small needle, called a canula, will be put into the back of your hand or your wrist. This will help the anaesthetist give you the drugs for the operation. You will then be taken to the operating theatre where any friends or relatives will have to leave you. At this point you will be connected to several machines to measure your heart rhythm and blood pressure and the anaesthetist will put you to sleep.

The donor liver

The donor liver will have been checked for any conditions such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. The donor will have been assessed for any illnesses and diseases. While it is possible to contract a disease from an infected liver, this is extremely rare as the screening process is so thorough.

What will happen during the transplant?

The most common type of liver transplant is known as an orthotopic transplantation. A cut is made in your upper abdomen (tummy area) and your liver removed.

The donor liver will be attached to the blood vessels and to your bile ducts (the donor and recipient gallbladders are removed). If your bile ducts are different in size to those of the donor liver a tube will be used to join them. This tube will extend outside of your skin for about three months after surgery.

Then you will be stitched up using dissolvable stitches. Drains are attached to take away extra fluid (these will remain attached for several days after surgery) and you will be moved to intensive care to recover.