Risks & Complications After a Liver Transplant

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Aman Priya Khanna
Written by Sangeeta Sharma, last updated on 14 September 2023
Risks & Complications After a Liver Transplant

A liver transplant is a procedure in which the damaged liver of a person is replaced with a healthy liver or a part of it from another person. However, you must be aware of the complications that can occur after a liver transplant.

Like any other surgical procedure, a liver transplant is not free of risks. Your doctor will advise you to have a liver transplant only after weighing the risks against the benefits.

What are the Risks and Complications of a Liver Transplant for the recipient?

Some of the complications that may occur after a liver transplant surgery are:

  1. Bleeding from the surgical area
  2. Blocked bile ducts or leakage of bile
  3. Blocked blood vessels to the new liver
  4. Non-functioning of the new liver for a short time immediately after the surgery
  5. Breathing difficulty
  6. Side effects of immunity – suppressing medicines
  7. Stroke or heart attack
  8. Liver transplant rejection

Our body is so designed that it may consider the new liver as a foreign substance. It may result in transplant rejection.

Rejection is a normal reaction of the body to foreign substances that enter the body. For this reason, the patient will be given immunosuppressive medicines to suppress their immune system. These medicines weaken the immune system's response and increases the risk of infections. 

Some signs of an infection are:

  1. Fever
  2. Diarrhoea
  3. Redness in the surgical area
  4. Tenderness and swelling in the surgical area
  5. Jaundice (eye and skin yellowing)
  6. Drainage from the surgical site
  7. Herpes 
  8. Oral yeast infection
  9. Respiratory viruses 

The patient must contact their surgeon if they notice the following:

  1. Fever (a sign of infection or rejection)
  2. Vomiting 
  3. Diarrhoea
  4. Bleeding from the surgical area
  5. Swelling, redness or drainage from the surgical site
  6. Jaundice

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What are the Risks of a Liver Transplant for donors?

A liver donation is known to be a safe surgery, but it involves certain risks such as:

  1. Pain and discomfort
  2. Nausea 
  3. Infection in the wound area
  4. Pneumonia 
  5. Bleeding that may need a blood transfusion
  6. Blood clots
  7. Hernia
  8. Bile duct problems
  9. Bile leakage
  10. Allergic reactions to anaesthesia
  11. Scar tissue formation

After the surgery, a donor spends around seven days in the hospital and more than six to eight weeks for recovery. During the recovery period, the donor will be given pain-relieving medicine, as they will likely experience discomfort and pain.

Are there any Disadvantages of being a Living Donor?

Some of the disadvantages of being a living donor are:

  1. Mild pain and discomfort, even after taking medicines
  2. The recovery period is extended. Full recovery takes around three to six months, depending on the donor’s overall health and age.
  3. Anxiety related to the surgery outcome 
  4. The possibility of the transplant failing 
  5. A permanent scar on the abdomen

What Can a Donor Avoid for Faster Recovery?

The liver of the donor will immediately begin regeneration after the surgery. Their liver will grow back to its normal size within six to eight weeks.

Their recovery will be monitored in the follow-ups and blood tests. The doctor will instruct the donor to stick to the following instructions:

  1. Not to lift heavy objects for at least six weeks
  2. Opt for regular walking 
  3. Avoid driving for at least two to three weeks
  4. Resume work after six to eight weeks (depending on their work profile)

What is the Success Rate of a Liver Transplant?

A success rate of liver transplant means that both the pieces of liver tissue inside the donor and the recipient have regenerated. The recipient’s body has accepted the liver transplant, and the recipient and donor have recovered from the surgery.

The success rate for a living donor is approximately 90%. It is somewhat higher than the rate of liver transplants, which is 85%.

After looking at the success rate of a liver transplant, you can rest assured that it is a very safe procedure. Still, you must have all the information regarding liver transplants, including their risks and complications.

If you still have any questions or doubts, feel free to contact us; we are here to solve all your doubts and queries. You can also visit the HexaHealth website for more detailed information on a liver transplant.

Updated on : 14 September 2023


Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

MBBS, DNB General Surgery, Fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery, FIAGES

12 Years Experience

Dr Aman Priya Khanna is a well-known General Surgeon, Proctologist and Bariatric Surgeon currently associated with HealthFort Clinic, Health First Multispecialty Clinic in Delhi. He has 12 years of experience in General Surgery and worke...View More


Sangeeta Sharma

Sangeeta Sharma

BSc. Biochemistry I MSc. Biochemistry (Oxford College Bangalore)

6 Years Experience

She has extensive experience in content and regulatory writing with reputed organisations like Sun Pharmaceuticals and Innodata. Skilled in SEO and passionate about creating informative and engaging medical conten...View More

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