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What to Expect Before and After a Liver Transplant Surgery at Tampa General Hospital

Man and woman smiling When a liver becomes available for your transplant surgery, you will receive a call from one of Tampa General Hospital’s transplant donor coordinators. Because this call can come at any time of the day or night, it’s extremely important that you always answer your phone – and that TGH has a way to reach you if you are at work or visiting with friends or family. It’s also important that you always have your transplant coordinator’s name and the hospital’s phone number.
On this call, the donor center coordinator will:
  • Review your current health status.
  • Help you determine whether you should stop taking any of your medicines, including insulin.
  • Tell you to stop consuming foods and liquids (or recommend a plan if you have recently taken insulin).
  • Remind you to bring your transplant handbook, a fully charged cell phone, and any other items you’ll need while you are in the hospital before and after your liver transplant surgery.
  • Provide instructions for coming to TGH and checking in at the admissions department.
liver referral form buttonWhen this call comes, you’ll need to have a friend or family member drive you to TGH as soon as possible. Once you have been admitted, we will perform blood tests and prepare you for your liver transplant surgery. Your family can stay with you until you are sent to the operating room, at which point they will be directed to the surgical unit’s waiting area.
A typical liver transplant surgery takes about six to eight hours. Once your surgery is finished, you will be taken to the surgical intensive care unit. Visiting hours are limited, but immediate family may be with you in your room.
When you wake up from your liver transplant surgery, you will notice that several tubes were placed in your body during the liver transplant operation. For instance, there will be a breathing tube, chest tubes (to drain fluid from your chest), a nasogastric tube (to keep your stomach empty), a Foley catheter (to empty your bladder), and IV lines (to administer medicines, fluids, and blood transfusions, and to take blood samples and check fluid pressures in your body). You will also receive medicine to help control pain and help you relax.
Once you are stable and can breathe on your own, you will be moved to a private room in the transplant unit. While a family member may stay in your room overnight as long as no medical reasons prohibit it, children under 12 years of age are not permitted in the transplant unit (although we will facilitate visits for children in a waiting room or the main lobby). While you recover from your liver transplant surgery, we will perform routine blood tests and X-rays, and you will have daily visits with your surgeons and hepatology care team. You and your support person(s) will also participate in several educational sessions, where you’ll cover topics such as:
  • Pharmacy education (what your medicines do and how to take them)
  • Nutrition education (what dietary requirements you’ll need to adhere to)
  • How to keep a transport log (including lab values, blood pressure, weight, and blood sugar)
  • How to care for yourself once you have been discharged

Most patients are discharged from the liver transplant hospital between seven and 14 days after their liver transplant surgery. However, some patients stay longer, depending on how sick they were prior to their liver transplant procedure.