Liver Transplant Patient Guide
Waking Up in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
After the surgery, the patient will wake up in the intensive care unit after the anesthesia wears off.
This is what the patient should expect:
- Some pain and discomfort, which medication will help to relieve.
- A tube will be inserted through the patient's nose. This tube will run down the patient's throat and into his stomach. This tube will keep the stomach empty, to help prevent nausea and vomiting.
- A tube may be inserted into the patient's throat to help him get enough oxygen. It will be connected to a breathing machine called a ventilator. The patient should try to relax and let the machine breathe for him. The patient will not be able to talk with this tube in place, but he will only need it for a few days. Nurses will do everything they can to help the patient communicate. The patient's throat may feel sore or scratchy for a few days afterward.
- The patient will be asked to cough periodically to keep his lungs clear. If it hurts to cough, the patient should ask someone to support his abdomen.
- The patient will have an IV line in his arm or neck under the collarbone, which will be used to give fluids and medication for the first few days after surgery.
- For several days after surgery, the patient will have a catheter in his bladder to drain urine. He may feel uncomfortable, and may feel that he has to urinate constantly, but it is only temporary.
- During surgery, several drains will be placed in or near the incision. These drains will be removed 5 to 10 days after surgery.
The length of a hospital stay will depend on a patient's progress. A patient is encouraged to talk to someone on his transplant team if he is uneasy or uncomfortable.
Medical Management in the Acute Care Unit
After the patient's medical condition has stabilized, he will be transferred from the ICU to the acute care unit. During the patient's stay on this unit, his laboratory studies, medications, nutritional status and exercise tolerance will be monitored. As soon as the patient is able, discharge instructions will begin to prepare him for going home.
Clinic and Follow-up Visits
Upon leaving the hospital, the patient will receive a schedule of follow-up clinic visits for lab tests and checkups. The purpose is to track your progress and detect potential complications as early as possible.
On days when the patient is scheduled for follow-up visits, he should bring his medication list and his surgery handbook. He will be given specific instructions for routine lab work or special tests that he might need.