Hepatitis C-related complications are a leading cause of liver transplants in the United States. A liver transplant is a life-saving surgery where a surgeon removes a diseased liver and replaces it with a healthy liver from a living or deceased donor.
Hepatitis C (HCV) is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. HCV infections can either be acute (short term) or chronic (long lasting). When a person has acute hepatitis, symptoms can last for
According to the
While antiviral medicines can treat HCV infections in most cases, some people may require a liver transplant. Evidence notes that HCV infections are a
In this article, we will discuss what people need to know about liver transplants for hepatitis C.
According to current practice guidelines, the criteria for a liver transplant require a person to:
- have irreversible liver disease that would be fatal without a transplant
- have no contraindications for the transplant surgery
- pass an extensive transplant evaluation process
Complications resulting from a chronic HCV infection, such as chronic liver disease and liver cancer, are
Cirrhosis occurs when scar tissue eventually replaces the liver’s healthy tissue. This stops the liver from working normally. According to the CDC, approximately
A person with hepatitis C must be healthy enough to undergo liver transplant surgery. A person is not eligible for a liver transplant if they have any of these contraindications:
Other situations might make a person ineligible for a liver transplant. Transplant centers may consider these conditions on a case-by-case basis. Examples include:
Each individual receives extensive testing to determine if they are healthy enough for the surgery and post-transplant care. The evaluation
- a complete history and physical exam to determine other existing medical concerns
- a thorough review of the individual’s current liver disease to determine their prognosis without a transplant
- screenings for any liver disease complications, such as esophageal varices and hepatocellular carcinoma
- thorough heart and lung evaluations
- blood work
- cancer screenings
- screening and treatment for any bacterial, viral, and/or fungal infection
vaccination updates, if necessary, for pneumonia, flu, DPT, and human papillomavirus (HPV)
- bone density testing
- anesthesia evaluation
- mental health and social support screening
- nutritional evaluation
To try and prevent any potential complications prior to a liver transplant, a person will work with their healthcare team to treat any underlying conditions and ensure they are receiving adequate treatment for the HCV infection. For example, this may involve a person with an alcohol or substance use disorder to have clean time prior to the procedure.
According to the
After surgery, a person will likely be taken to a recovery room for a few hours before the healthcare team transfers them to the intensive care unit (ICU). The healthcare team will monitor the transplant recipient closely for several days. Most transplant recipients will stay in the hospital for about 2 weeks.
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A transplant recipient needs
- detect and treat any transplant complications, such as
- review immunosuppressant medication compliance and side effects
- support the transplant recipient and their caregivers
Suggestions to help take care of a new liver
- taking all prescribed medications according to the doctor’s directions, especially immunosuppressive medications
- talking with a doctor before taking any new prescription, over-the-counter medicines, or dietary supplements
- protecting the immune system
- discussing the use of contraceptives and potential risks of pregnancy
- having regular cancer screenings
- recognizing potential symptoms of organ rejection
- staying up to date with vaccines but avoiding live vaccines
Even though most people can resume some activities after a few weeks, the National Health Service in the United Kingdom states it can take up to a year to recover from a liver transplant.
For people receiving liver transplants from deceased donors, the average survival rates listed by the
- 86% at 1 year
- 78% at 3 years
- 72% at 5 years
- 53% at 20 years
A person’s life expectancy after a liver transplant depends on their overall health and other factors, such as:
- age at time of transplant
- other existing health conditions
- kidney health
- adherence to post-transplant treatment and follow-up
People with untreated chronic HCV infections may eventually develop complications of the liver, such as cirrhosis or cancer. In cases of severe liver damage, a doctor may recommend a liver transplant. Without this treatment, HCV-related liver failure can be life threatening.
After an evaluation, a person may be eligible for a transplant. Until a donor organ is available, they will need to try and maintain their health. Surgery involves replacing the damaged liver with the donor organ, and it can take up to a year for a person to make a full recovery. They will then require regular checkups to ensure the person remains in good health.