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Digestive Diseases: Liver Transplantation

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 article on WebMD


Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/liver_transplant/article.htm

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