Disease: Digestive Diseases: Liver Transplantation

    What is the liver, and what is its function.

    The liver is the body's largest internal organ, weighing about 3 pounds in adults. It is located below the diaphragm on the right side of the abdomen.

    The liver performs many complex functions in the body, including:

    • Produces most proteins needed by the body.
    • Metabolizes, or breaks down, nutrients from food to produce energy, when needed.
    • Prevents shortages of nutrients by storing certain vitamins, minerals and sugar.
    • Produces bile, a compound needed to digest fat and to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K.
    • Produces most of the substances that regulate blood clotting.
    • Helps your body fight infection by removing bacteria from the blood.
    • Removes potentially toxic byproducts of certain medications.

    When is a liver transplant needed?

    Liver transplantation is considered when the liver no longer functions adequately (liver failure). Liver failure can occur suddenly (acute liver failure) as a result of infection or complications from certain medications or it can be the end result of a long-term problem. The following conditions may result in liver failure:

    • Chronic hepatitis with cirrhosis.
    • Primary biliary cirrhosis (a condition where the immune system inappropriately attacks and destroys the bile ducts causing liver failure).
    • Sclerosing cholangitis (scarring and narrowing of the bile ducts inside and outside of the liver causing the backup of bile in the liver which can lead to liver failure).
    • Biliary atresia (malformation of the bile ducts).
    • Alcoholism
    • Wilson's disease (a rare inherited disease with abnormal deposition of copper throughout the body, including the liver, causing it to fail).
    • Hemochromatosis (a common inherited disease where the body is overwhelmed with iron).
    • Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (an abnormal accumulation of alpha-1 antitrypsin protein in the liver, resulting in cirrhosis).
    • Liver cancer

    How are candidates for liver transplant determined?

    Evaluations by specialists from a variety of fields are needed to determine if a liver transplant is appropriate. The evaluation includes a review of your medical history and a variety of tests. Many healthcare facilities offer an interdisciplinary approach to evaluate and to select candidates for liver transplantation. This interdisciplinary healthcare team may include the following professionals:

    • Liver specialist (hepatologist).
    • Transplant surgeons
    • Transplant coordinator, usually a registered nurse who specializes in the care of liver-transplant patients (this person will be your primary contact with the transplant team).
    • Social worker to discuss your support network of family and friends, employment history, and financial needs.
    • Psychiatrist to help you deal with issues, such as anxiety and depression, which may accompany the liver transplantation.
    • Anesthesiologist to discuss potential anesthesia risks.
    • Chemical dependency specialist to aid those with history of alcohol or drug abuse.
    • Financial counselor to act as a liaison between a patient and his or her insurance companies.

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    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

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