What Is Involved in a Liver Transplant?

A liver transplant involves surgically removing a healthy liver or portion of a liver from a donor, cutting an incision in the recipient's abdomen to access the damaged liver, detaching the damaged liver from the bile ducts and blood supply, placing the donor's liver in the recipient, reconnecting the new liver to the bile ducts and blood supply, and stitching the incision, according to Mayo Clinic. A surgeon performs a liver transplant while the patient is under general anesthesia.

Surgeons recommend liver transplant for patients with end-stage liver failure, which is not treatable through other treatment options, notes Mayo Clinic. It is also applicable to the sufferers of liver cancer. Prior to liver transplant, the patient undergoes tests and consultations to see if he meets the criteria of having his name listed among those waiting for liver transplant. While on the waiting list, the physician treats the patient's liver failure and makes him as comfortable as possible. After the transplant, the recipient takes antirejection medications throughout his life to protect the new liver from immune system attack.

Although liver transplant is helpful, it is risky as it may cause blood clots, infection, bile duct shrinkage, bleeding and memory loss, states Mayo Clinic. The donated liver may also fail or experience a rejection from the recipient's immune system. Additionally, the antirejection medications may result in conditions such as diabetes, diarrhea, hypertension and bone thinning.