Are you or a loved one preparing for a liver transplant? This is a somewhat rare surgical procedure based on the number of donated livers. For example, in 2014 there were 15,000+ people on the waiting list, which was nearly 2x the number of liver transplant surgeries done that year. This major surgery is usually successful with a three-quarters success rate during the first five years. However, you should know about liver transplant rejection symptoms since they’re a sign the body is attacking the foreign object (liver). This is a normal response of the body’s immune system but can cause complications after the surgery.
It’s important to know the common symptoms of transplant rejection. They include minor ones like headaches and fatigue and more serious ones like high fever and yellowish eyes and skin. If you experience these symptoms your doctor can make changes to your medicines like the doses and types. This can help to fight the immune system’s attack on the new liver using antibodies. In most cases, the immune system benefits bodies by keeping away bacteria, fungi, viruses, etc. The key is to trick the system into not attacking the new organ. Transplant patients should expect to take anti-rejection medicines long-term.
What in the World Is Transplant Rejection?
There are relatively few liver transplant surgeries done yearly for various reasons. They include the small supply of donated livers and the costs that can be $500,000+.
In fact, the process of actually securing a replacement liver can be tough. You’ll first have to be approved by the transplant center’s team that checks the person’s medical condition and financial status. In some cases, people don’t have health insurance or other sources to pay for the implant.
In other situations, the transplant candidate’s liver isn’t diseased enough. This could actually prevent him/her from receiving a transplant because the liver is working good enough to avoid being replaced.
If a person is approved for a liver transplant they still have to go through other processes. They include being placed on a waiting list. The position of the list is based on the MELD score, which itself is based on your project liver health within the next 90 days (3 months).
One of the big issues related to finding the “right” donor is whether they have a matching blood type. They don’t have to be relatives but it’s critical to have a similar blood type. Your doctor can help to explain everything about such issues.
Studies show that most liver transplant surgeries are successful. For example, the survival rate within the next 5 years is 75%. However, it’s still important for you to get all the information necessary about what post-operation steps to take.
One of the most common situations is something called “transplant rejection.” This results from the immune system trying to do its job of protecting the body from foreign tissue/objects. That’s the way it perceives the new liver.
Your doctor will prescribe anti-rejection meds that help to prevent the system from sending antibodies to attack the new organ. These medicines are usually required for the rest of the patient’s life.
Liver Transplant Rejection: Symptoms
Even though your doctor will prescribe anti-rejection meds to fight rejection you still might experience it after your liver transplant. This will cause your doctor to change the medicine’s dosage and possibly add new medicines.
The anti-rejection meds provide pros and cons. The main benefit is you counter the body’s natural response to fight the new organ. On the other hand, medicines can also decrease your body’s own ability to fight infection. This is a bigger issue in the time right after the transplant surgery.
It’s critical to know the various signs of liver rejection. If you observe them you should contact your doctor immediately so you can deal with the situation. Here are some of the main ones to watch out for:
- Stomach tenderness
- Jaundice (yellowish eyes/skin)
- Stomach swelling
- Dark urine
- Body temperature over 100° F
There are a few other issues to consider. Many of these symptoms are similar to other conditions/diseases. Your doctor can help to determine whether or not it’s linked to organ transplant rejection.
It’s also important to watch out for 2+ symptoms. Just having one like headaches or fatigue could be linked to many other factors. They include basic causes like not getting enough sleep. It’s better to be on the safe side and still get the symptoms checked out after liver transplant surgery.
In terms of the higher risk of infection, this situation usually remains within a couple of months after your surgery. If it happens then your doctor might prescribe other meds to help fight off infections.
There are certain infections that are more common during the next few months after your surgery. They include yeast infection, breathing viruses and herpes. When you’re recovering from major surgery you’ll want to minimize the symptoms you experience as much as possible. So if you have the symptoms get it checked out.
How Do You Qualify for Liver Transplants?
1. Liver donor
Even if you’re approved for a liver transplant procedure you’ll also have to find the right donor. That’s because of various factors including ta blood match. It’s common for people to get a partial/full donation from a relative. However, this isn’t required as long as the blood type matches up.
One X-factor is the number of live/deceased donors. For example, there are often 2x more people on a waiting list versus liver donors. This can make it tough to get a replacement donor and especially if you’re not in the late stage of a particular condition like liver disease.
2. Financial resources
The cost of liver transplant surgery can be over $500,000 US dollars. You can find cheaper prices but there are various factors that determine the cost. They include the doctor’s experience and location, whether it’s a partial/full transplant, and any possible complications.
Another big issue besides the cost is the patient’s ability to pay the bill. If you have health insurance the cost will require a much lower out-of-pocket expense. However, you should still shop around to find the best price/value. Make sure you’re not sacrificing high expertise for lower price tag.
3. Liver conditions/stage
There are both important issues. For example, you might have an early-stage liver disease known as fatty liver disease. This is the first of the 4 stages of the disease. Transplant center teams will review your medical history that includes the condition(s) you have as well as the stage you’re at. Some conditions that help to qualify for liver transplants include:
- Liver cancer
- Hepatitis (B/C)
- Autoimmune diseases (hepatitis)
- Non-alcoholic liver disease
- Failed liver transplant
- Liver cirrhosis
- Alcoholic liver disease
These are some of the most common conditions that warrant liver transplant. However, as noted it also depends on what stage you’re at.
There’s a lot of info to learn about post-operation issues like liver transplant rejection symptoms.