The liver is a vital and the most complex organ in the human body. The importance of the liver can be gauged from the fact that the liver is responsible for performing more than 500 essential functions, which include digestion of food, production of proteins which are the building blocks of the human body, maintaining the immunity of the body, removal of harmful substances from the body and many more. Therefore it is obvious that the body’s normal functioning is dependent on a healthy liver.
The liver unlike other organs in the body has a huge reserve and physical signs and symptoms of liver disease arise only when most of the liver gets damaged. The common symptoms of liver disease are jaundice (yellow color of eyes), loss of appetite/aversion to food, feeling of weakness and lethargy, ascites (accumulation of water in the abdomen), swelling of legs, vomiting of blood or passing blood with stools and altered mental status are symptoms of advanced liver disease. Although there are multiple causes of liver disease, the common causes are viral hepatitis (hepatitis A, B, C, and E), long term excessive alcohol consumption, and obesity along with diabetes, fatty liver disease, liver cancer, congenital liver diseases and many more. Multiple tests and radiological investigations are done to detect the exact cause of liver disease and the damage that the disease has caused to the liver. Some of the common tests amongst these are liver function tests, tests for hepatitis virus, blood coagulation tests, cancer marker tests, ultrasound and CT scan of the liver.
Liver transplantation is the treatment of choice for end stage liver disease, acute liver failure and liver cancer. Liver transplantation involves removing the diseased liver from the patient and replacing it with healthy liver either from a brain dead donor or more commonly with partial liver from a healthy donor. Retrieval of organs from brain dead people involves removal of organs from individuals whose brain has stopped functioning (typically resulting after head injuries and brain hemorrhage), but their heart and breathing functions are being supported with artificial support. Owing to the scarcity of brain dead or “cadaveric” organs, the other alternative source is healthy individual. Liver is the only organ which has the capacity to grow after removing a portion. So much is the capacity of the liver to grow back to normal that up to 70% of the donor’s liver can be removed without any problem to the donor. Since cadaveric organs are very few in India, the majority of liver transplants are from living related donors.
Liver transplantation has advanced in recent past with newer methods of surgical techniques and advance in technology of the equipment’s. The success rates of liver transplantation are 90-95%. Patients can lead a normal life after transplantation except that they have to take medicines for rejection.
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