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Side Effects of Liver Cancer Surgery

Liver cancer surgery presents many of the same major risks and side effects that other major surgeries pose, but some side effects are unique to liver surgeries.

Learn about:

Common side effects of partial hepatectomy

Word to the Wise

Complications from anaesthesia are rare, but may include nerve damage and allergic reactions.

As blood regularly passes through the liver, excessive bleeding is a risk of partial hepatectomy. In addition, since the liver helps blood to clot, it is possible that any damage done to the liver before or during surgery can increase the amount of bleeding that may result.

Other potential side effects of partial resection include:

  • Infection
  • Complications from anaesthesia
  • Pneumonia

Common side effects of liver transplant

The same side effects that apply to partial hepatectomy apply to liver transplants. There are also some unique risks to liver transplantation.

Liver rejection. The body is designed to reject foreign materials or organisms as a protection against harm. As a result, your body may reject the new organ.

Drug side effects. During the surgery, you will be given drugs to suppress your immune system. This is done to increase the likelihood that your body will accept the donated liver. However, there are a number of side effects you may experience as a result of the medication, which include:

  • Serious infection
  • Encouraging the cancer to grow more quickly (since the immune system is suppressed)
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Weakening of the kidneys and bones
  • Increase in body hair

After the surgery, your doctors will give you regular blood tests that can detect whether your body is rejecting the transplant. But new approaches are being explored that are expected to decrease the side effects associated with liver transplant.

For months and years after you receive the transplant, your doctor will test your blood for the presence of liver enzymes, which is the first sign that your body is rejecting the new liver. To confirm whether your body is rejecting the liver, your doctor will need to take a biopsy of your liver. Typically, you will not feel ill if your body is rejecting the liver. However, it’s possible to experience:

  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Jaundice

Preparing for liver cancer surgery

Knowing what to expect before, during, and after surgery can significantly lower the anxiety you may feel about the procedure. Here are some other steps you can take to help ensure your surgery goes smoothly:

Take care of yourself. Plenty of rest and a healthy diet can help prepare your body for surgery.

Stop smoking. Smoking can make it harder for your body to heal and can cause lung complications after surgery.

Follow your doctor’s instructions. Ask your care team how to look after incisions and when to take medication, and follow their instructions carefully. Find out what side effects after surgery are normal and which may be signs of a complication.

Follow instructions for getting back on your feet. Find out when and how to start rehabilitation and when to schedule follow-up appointments.

Know your limits. Follow your doctor’s guidelines regarding physical activity and returning to work after surgery. Don’t push yourself during recovery.

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