Liver transplant: The transplant hospital stay

The following timeline is representative of the typical liver recipient; no patient will have exactly the same experiences.

Day of surgery

Illustration of liver transplant procedure

  • You will be admitted directly to the Transplant Unit.
  • Blood samples will be obtained.
  • A chest x-ray and EKG will be obtained.
  • An enema will be given to cleanse the bowel.


  • You will go to surgery usually within several hours of being admitted, but this can vary.
  • The surgery usually lasts 4-6 hours.

First post-operative day

  • You will go to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit for a day or two before being transferred to the Transplant Unit. 
  • You will not be eating or drinking until your bowel wakes up from the anesthesia; this may be as soon as the next day in some cases. You will begin taking pills with a few sips of water.
  • You will have an IV to prevent you from becoming dehydrated and through which you may get some medications.
  • You will have your vital signs monitored hourly in the immediate post-operative period.
  • You will have blood drawn once a day.
  • You will be encouraged to cough and deep breathe to prevent pneumonia.

Second post-operative day to discharge (usually after 6 to 7 days)

  • You will probably begin drinking clear liquids at mealtimes by the second day after surgery, and may even be eating solid food if you can tolerate it.
  • You will be assisted in taking your first walk after surgery, and will be expected to increase your amount of activity every day to prevent complications such as pneumonia and blood clots.
  • A transplant pharmacist will educate you and your family about your new medications. In addition, you will be learning about signs and symptoms of organ rejection and infection.
  • A transplant nurse coordinator will speak with you to arrange for local laboratory blood work and further follow-up in clinic.
  • You will have your first follow-up appointment at the Organ Transplant Clinic approximately two weeks after discharge. You will be given the date and time of this appointment before you are discharged.
Last reviewed: 
January 2018

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