What happens during a liver transplant operation?

Simply put, a liver transplant involves replacing a diseased or damaged liver with a donated one. But as transplant surgeon Dr. Tomoaki Kato explains in this video, connecting all the arteries, veins and ducts correctly is critical.

A liver transplant is one of the most complex operations there is. Learn more about liver transplant surgery by watching this video featuring liver transplant surgeon Dr. Robert Brown.

The majority of liver transplant procedures are orthotopic, which means that a recipient's liver is replaced with a donor liver. Once a donor liver becomes available, the patient must come to the hospital immediately and undergo testing to ensure he or she is healthy enough to withstand transplantation. Deceased donor procedures must be done within 12 to 18 hours of the donor organ's procurement.

If the donor organ is to come from a living donor, the donor and recipient each come to the hospital at designated times for pre-surgical testing. Approximately 15-20% of the Center's transplant patients currently receive a liver from a living donor. The transplant procedure is performed under general anesthesia, and entails numerous steps. A tube is inserted into the patient's throat to facilitate breathing during surgery, and immunosuppressant drugs are administered to prevent organ rejection. An incision is made across the patient's abdomen, through which the diseased liver is disconnected from the main blood vessels and bile ducts. The new liver is then placed in the abdomen and connected to the blood vessels and bile ducts.

The abdominal incision may be closed with sutures and staples, and the patient is taken to the intensive care unit for recovery. Surgery may take between four and eight hours.

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