Recovering from a liver transplant can be a long process, but most people will eventually be able to return to most of their normal activities and have a good quality of life.
It can take up to a year to fully recover, although you'll usually be able to start gradually building up your activities after a few weeks.
You'll have regular follow-up appointments to see how you're doing and check how well your liver is working.
These may be once a week to begin with, but eventually they may only be needed every few months or once a year.
To stop your body attacking and damaging your new liver, you'll need to take medicines called immunosuppressants for the rest of your life.
There are several different types of immunosuppressant medicine. They can all cause some unpleasant side effects, but never stop taking them without speaking to a doctor first.
Risks of immunosuppressants include:
- increased risk of infections
- kidney problems
- increased risk of some types of cancer, such as skin cancer
Food and diet
Most people will not need a special diet after a liver transplant.
A normal, balanced diet will help you recover and stay healthy.
Sometimes you might need extra help from a dietitian.
Whether you can drink alcohol after a liver transplant depends on the reason you needed a transplant.
If the previous problem with your liver was caused by alcohol misuse, you are advised not to drink alcohol again.
It may also be a good idea not to drink alcohol even if your liver problem was not alcohol-related, although in some cases it may be fine to do so in moderation.
Speak to your care team for advice.
It's a good idea to get plenty of rest when you first get home from hospital.
When you feel able to, start off with gentle activities, such as walking, and gradually increase how much you do over time.
You may see a physiotherapist, who can advise you about exercises.
Avoid contact sports and swimming for several months until you have fully recovered, as there's a risk of picking up an injury or infection.
Sex and pregnancy
You can start having sex again as soon as you feel physically and emotionally ready.
Most women are still able to get pregnant after a liver transplant, but you must:
- avoid becoming pregnant for at least a year
- talk to your transplant team if it's been more than a year and you want to plan a pregnancy
- tell a GP or transplant team if you get pregnant at any point
Your medicine may need to be changed and you may need extra monitoring if you become pregnant after having a liver transplant.
You'll probably need to avoid driving for up to 2 months.
This is because the transplant procedure and immunosuppressant medicine can affect your vision, reaction times and ability to perform emergency stops.
Speak to a GP or transplant team first if you feel ready to drive again. It's also often a good idea to inform your insurance company of your situation.
Going back to work
How long you need to be off work will depend on your job and how quickly you recover.
Some people are able to return to work after 3 months, although others may need more time off.
Your transplant team can advise you about this.
When to get medical help
Contact a GP or transplant team if you get:
- flu-like symptoms, like a high temperature or chills
- sickness and are being sick (vomiting)
- yellow skin or eyes (jaundice)
- pale poo or dark pee
- very itchy skin
- a swollen tummy or ankles
- redness, swelling, warmth or pus around your wound
These symptoms could be caused by an infection or a problem with your liver that needs to be treated quickly.