You Have Questions – We Have Answers
One of the most common substances that can harm your liver is acetaminophen, which is in many over-the-counter medications. When taken in small doses as recommended, acetaminophen is safe and effective for reducing fevers, aches, and pains. Amounts greater than those recommended can result in liver damage or failure. Acetaminophen overdose is a common reason for considering a liver transplant.
It’s important to remember that people who have two or more drinks on a daily basis while taking acetaminophen can cause themselves severe liver damage.
Other common toxins that can cause liver damage through inhalation (especially with an underlying condition) include cleaning solvents, aerosol paints, paint thinners, etc. Always read directions and use in a well-ventilated area. Filter masks are highly recommended.
Many people are unaware that the liver is the only organ in the body able to regenerate itself, replacing damaged tissue with new cells. However, liver disease occurs when a damaging agent such as a virus, a drug, alcohol, etc., continues to attack the liver, preventing complete regeneration. Once scar tissue has developed it is very difficult to reverse that process.
However, many liver diseases can be cured and/or treated effectively. To what extent depends on the patient’s extent of damage, what type of disease they have, and their willingness to follow their doctor’s orders.
Incredibly important. In fact, they are so important, the Hepatitis B vaccine is now included in the newborn vaccination series. Experts say that Hepatitis B could be completely eradicated with universal vaccination. Attempts are ongoing to vaccinate all children by the time they reach junior high age. Adults who are in high-risk occupations such as the health care field or carry out high-risk activities, such as IV drug use and multiple sexual partners should also be vaccinated.
The Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended in a number of childcare settings and should be discussed with your pediatrician. Adults or children traveling to areas of the world where Hepatitis A is very common, including all underdeveloped or poorly developed countries, should be vaccinated before they go. Any individual with underlying chronic liver disease not due to Hepatitis B, particular those with Hepatitis C or cirrhosis should be vaccinated against both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, unless they are already immune.
Your Hepatitis A vaccination should be effective for 20+ years, possibly your whole life. Your Hepatitis B vaccination, however, typically protects you for about five years and then you will need a booster shot.
If a patient’s liver disease was caused by autoimmune Hepatitis A, B or C viruses, then recurrence is possible, Hepatitis B currently reoccurs in five percent or less of patients since we have mastered controlling this disease with an immune globulin medicine and an oral medication. Hepatitis C occurs in almost all patients and is progressive in maybe a 25 – 50 percent of patients in the first five to 10 years. For other types of liver disease, recurrence is less likely, but is still a possibility unless it was a genetic disease that was cured by the liver transplantation.
Recovery after liver transplantation depends in part on how sick the patient was prior to surgery. Most patients need to count on spending a few days in the hospital’s intensive care unit so their condition can be monitored closely. During that time, a patient’s liver function will also be tested frequently to make sure the new liver is working properly.
Once a patient is released from intensive care, s/he will be transferred to a regular hospital ward where s/he will continue to recuperate for about 5 – 10 more days. After release, the patient will need to have frequent checkups during recovery. Liver transplant patients should also expect to take immunosuppressant drugs and other medications to help reduce complications after surgery – possibly for the rest of their lives.
In most cases, patients are fully healed from a liver transplantation in about six months, depending on how ill the patient was before the transplant.