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Pre-Op and Post-Op Expectations for Liver Transplant Surgery

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. The Donor Center will provide you with a phone number and a point of contact, which you’ll also want to keep handy in case you have any questions about your pending transplant, the overall transplant process, or possible delays if you are unable to get to the hospital right away once you do receive your call.

What Happens When You Receive the Call?

When you receive your call, the donor center coordinator will:

  • Review your current health status which they’ll share with the surgical team. This is to rule out any possible contraindications to proceed to transplant at that time.
  • Help you determine whether you should stop taking any of your medicines, including insulin.
  • Tell you when to stop consuming foods and liquids (or recommend a plan if you have recently taken insulin).
  • Remind you what to bring to the hospital with you, including 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.
  • Provide you with an outline of the expected processes as well as provide updates on the transplant as they are made available.

When you arrive at the hospital for your liver transplant surgery, the donor center coordinator you spoke with will also greet you at your hospital room to discuss the procedure and all required processes in greater detail. This will provide an additional opportunity to ask questions regarding the transplant process.

As a reminder, when this call comes, you’ll need to have a friend or family member who can drive you to TGH as soon as possible and also stay with you and provide support. 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.

What to Expect Post-Surgery

liver referral form buttonA typical liver transplant surgery takes between four 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, 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 care team. You and your support person(s) will also participate in several educational sessions, including:

  • Pharmacy education (what your medicines do and how to take them)
  • Nutrition education (what dietary requirements you’ll need to adhere to)
  • Post-transplant education with a coordinator (general guidelines to follow and tips for post-surgery)

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.

To learn more about liver transplant surgery at TGH, call 1-800-505-7769 (press 4 for the liver transplant program and ask for the referral coordinator), or call the coordinator directly at (813) 844-8686. Our liver transplant program is ranked #7 in the nation by volume.