Liver Transplant (cont.)
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The incision on the belly is in the shape of an upside-down Y. Small, plastic, bulb-shaped drains are placed near the incision to drain blood and fluid from around the liver. These are called Jackson-Pratt (JP) drains and may remain in place for several days until the drainage significantly decreases. A tube called a T-tube may be placed in the patient's bile duct to allow it to drain outside the body into a small pouch called a bile bag. The bile may vary from deep gold to dark green, and the amount produced is measured frequently. The tube remains in place for about 3 months after surgery. Bile production early after the surgery is a good sign and is one of the indicators surgeons look for to determine if the liver transplant is being "accepted" by the patient's body.
After surgery, the patient is taken to the intensive care unit, is monitored very closely with several machines. The patient will be on a respirator, a machine that breathes for the patient, and will have a tube in the trachea (the body's natural breathing tube) bringing oxygen to the lungs. Once the patient wakes up enough and can breathe alone, the tube and respirator are removed. The patient will have several blood tests, x-ray films, and ECGs during the hospital stay. Blood transfusions may be necessary. The patient leaves the intensive care unit once he or she is fully awake, able to breathe effectively, and has a normal temperature, blood pressure, and pulse, usually after about 3-4 days. The patient is then moved to a room with fewer monitoring devices for a few days longer before going home. The average hospital stay after surgery is 1-3 weeks.
Steve Guillen, MD
Martin Black, MD, FRCP
Grace Thomas, MD
Robert M McNamara, MD, FAAEM
Michael D Burg, MD
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
James Ungar, MD
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