A liver transplant is a surgical procedure that replaces a damaged liver with a healthy one from a donor. It is a treatment option for individuals with advanced liver disease or liver failure that is not manageable through other medical procedures or therapies. The donor's liver can come from a deceased or living donor. A whole liver may be transplanted, or just a portion of one. Generally speaking, a liver transplant can greatly improve one’s quality of life and lifespan.
Liver transplant surgery is usually performed for patients with liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), acute liver failure, or other end-stage liver disease. These diseases are often caused by viral hepatitis, cirrhosis, excessive alcohol and drug consumption, and genetic conditions.
There are several types of liver transplant in Singapore, which include:
At the liver transplant centre, the doctor will examine the patient's liver and general health; as well as ask about their symptoms, medical history, lifestyle and history of substance abuse (if any). A transplant assessment will also include further tests to confirm if the patient is suitable for a transplant, such as:
Proper preparation while waiting for a liver transplant in Singapore generally revolves around keeping one as healthy as possible:
Liver transplant surgery usually takes 6 to 12 hours, depending on the severity of the disease and the complexity of the patient's condition. During the procedure, the surgeon creates an incision across the stomach and toward the chest to gain access to the liver. The surgeon will then remove the diseased liver, attach the donor liver, and connect it to the blood vessels and bile ducts before closing the incision.
The patient will be transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU) following the procedure for monitoring and testing of the new liver’s function. The doctor will also arrange for a post-operative check-ups and prescribe medications to minimise the risk of complications. It may take a few months for patients to resume their normal activities after liver surgery.
As with all surgical procedures, a liver transplant is associated with certain risks, such as:
However, with proper management by an experienced medical team, the risks of complications occurring are kept to a minimal.
Upon graduating from the University of Leicester and completing his basic surgical training in the United Kingdom, Dr Wong went on to complete advanced training in Singapore before embarking on his HMDP clinical fellowship in Japan—specializing in living donor liver transplantation.
Prior to establishing his own practice, Dr Wong was previously a consultant with the Department of Hepatopancreatobiliary & Transplant Surgery at SGH, an adjunct assistant professor at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School and a visiting consultant at the National Cancer Centre Singapore.Read more