The world of modern medicine has a long list of impressive treatments for a range of human maladies. One medical advance that’s especially impressive is the organ transplant.
Your liver is a hard working internal organ that:
Unfortunately, sometimes the liver can fail due to an injury or disease. The most common causes of liver failure are viruses such as hepatitis, cancer or drug/alcohol-induced failures.
Signs of liver failure include:
If you or a loved on has liver function that deteriorates to the point where it becomes life threatening, the patient may be evaluated for a possible transplant. The transplant candidate’s overall health is an important aspect in determining if she or he is a good candidate for a transplant.
For organ transplants at Aurora Health Care, a selection committee makes the determination in consultation with the patient’s doctor. Patients who move forward with the transplant process will be registered with the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS).
A transplant physician and transplant nurse will work with a coordinator to ensure the patient’s health and mental well-being are maintained throughout the waiting period, which can last from a few days to a few years.
A team of medical professionals manages care for the patient throughout the transplant process. The team will include:
During the transplant surgery, the patient is anesthetized, so no pain is felt.
An incision is made in the abdomen, the failed liver is removed and the donor organ is surgically connected to the other organs and blood vessels.
After surgery, the health care team will watch for infection, rejection and side effects of medications. Physical therapy may also be part of the patient’s recovery process.
The health care team will also manage immunosuppressive medications after the surgery. These drugs help keep the patient’s body from rejecting the transplanted organ.
After what may be a few months of recovery, the patient may feel ready to return to work and other daily activities.
The Aurora transplant team has been performing organ transplants for more than 40 years. Liver transplants are performed at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee. If the patient lives outside the Milwaukee area, Aurora St. Luke’s collaborates with other Aurora Medical Centers to coordinate patient care before and after the transplant procedure.
Aurora performs about 40 liver transplants per year. Metrics for the quality of care throughout the transplant process and the first year after place Aurora Health Care in the top 5% nationally.
Aurora surgeon Dr. Ajay Sahajpal recently helped implement a new surgical technique for patients who need both a kidney and liver. The doctor and his team are the first in the U.S. to use a technique called en bloc. With this pioneering technique, the donated kidney and liver are stitched together in a separate procedure before the transplant. They are then implanted at the same time with a single incision in the patient’s upper abdomen.
With this approach, patients spend less time in the operating room and often recover sooner because of the single incision. The technique also allows the organs to better adapt to the patient’s body.
If you or someone you care about needs a transplant, qualified teams are available to help every step of the way.