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Liver Transplant Life Expectancy

Dr. Sumaiya Khan Mar 2, 2019
After a liver transplant, the most commonly asked question is with regard to the life expectancy. However, one needs to understand that the concept of life expectancy, in toto, is a highly misconstrued one.
The liver is the largest gland in the body located in the right side of the abdomen. The liver performs many functions, like hydrolyzing and storing fats, decomposing red blood cells, detoxification, etc. Thus, it has a major role to play in the general metabolism of food.
However, there are many conditions that could lead to hampering or impediment of normal liver function. These could include either liver diseases that could occur due to improper diet or excessive drinking, or they could also be systemic diseases that affect the liver.
Thus, in such cases, as in most liver diseases, the damage done to the liver is often irreversible, there may be need, as a last ditch effort, for a liver transplant. The next thing that comes to mind is "the life expectancy."

Life Expectancy After Liver Transplant

The unfortunate but fundamental truth while dealing with this question is that there is no final and definitive answer. This unavailability of an answer can be attributed to a variety of factors.
One of them being that the whole phenomenon of liver transplantation is too recent an endeavor in medical science and hence, research and studies are still being held to understand the possible life expectancy after liver transplant.
However, the most crucial deciding factor in such cases is the time span immediately after a transplant. It is normally said that children that survive the first year after a liver transplant live into adulthood. On the other hand, some patients may eventually succumb to post-transplant complications, while others may live a lot longer.

Factors Affecting the Life Expectancy

Although liver is the second most transplanted organ after kidney, one needs to understand that only certain cases of liver failures are applicable candidates for a liver transplant.
People who suffer from liver damage due to alcohol or substance abuse, cancer that has metastasized, advanced heart and lung diseases, a condition of sepsis, HIV patients, etc. are not applicable for liver transplants.
On the other hand, patients that do get a liver transplant done, need to take a lot of factors into consideration. Post-operative care is the key to a successful organ transplant. It is crucial that the body accept the liver that is donated, as organ rejection can lead to failure of the entire procedure.
For this, immunosuppressive drugs are given. The body may consider the liver as foreign and immediately reject it; this is an acute form of rejection of the organ.
Contrarily, a chronic form of rejection may occur when the body rejects the transplant few years after the surgery is performed; this form being a steady source of deterioration, weakening the liver thereby, hampering its functionality.
The first three months are said to be the most important ones, because once the liver has been accepted by the body, there are high chances of the person having a good lifespan.
There are other factors also that play a role in determining the prognosis, like age of the patient, extent of damage and organ donation, diet, exercise, lifestyle, complete abstinence from alcohol and smoking, etc.
Thus, in the end, when one calculates the life expectancy after a certain procedure, then it is merely an aggregate of all the cases, the ones that died immediately after the procedure, and ones that went on to live for another fifty years.
Thus, the term 'liver transplant life expectancy' itself says very little about the true prognosis and future possibilities and complications that the transplant procedure may lead to. Hence, it is best not to get disheartened, nor over-optimistic by looking at statistics, but to instead try to get the best possible treatment done and leave the rest to God.