Liver Hepatitis C Treatment Liver Implants

Since the hepatitis C virus replicates in the liver, the effects of hepatitis C may include liver scarring and damage, which may severely compromise liver function. For these patients, hepatitis C treatment may require a liver transplant. The American Liver Foundation (2010) reports that hepatitis C is the second most common cause of liver transplants in the United States, second only to cirrhosis.

What are Liver Transplants?

During a liver transplant, a diseased liver is replaced with a healthy one. Once the diseased liver is removed, a whole or partial donor liver is implanted. After liver transplants, partial livers can grow to normal size.

Where do Donor Livers Come From?

In most cases of liver transplants, the healthy liver usually comes from a deceased individual identified as an organ donor. The donor and recipient must have the same blood type and roughly the same body size. Organ donors have often suffered from accidents involving a quick death, leaving their organs viable and intact. However, liver transplants may also be possible with a partial liver from a live donor.

People with certain illnesses and infections often can’t donate organs, as some conditions can survive in the liver and spread to the recipient.

When is a Liver Transplant Necessary?

Liver transplants are necessary when liver disease — one of the severe effects of hepatitis C — has caused severe liver damage. The liver plays a role in metabolism and waste removal and is essential to survival. Severe effects of hepatitis C can be fatal, but a liver transplant may improve this prognosis.

Individuals with advanced liver damage or liver failure often can’t receive other forms of hepatitis C treatment — such as antiviral therapy — before a liver transplant. In these cases, antiviral treatment may be given after the transplant.

After the Liver Transplant

After your liver transplant, your doctor will most likely prescribe anti-rejection drugs, which will prevent the body’s immune system from attacking the new liver. In addition, eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise and avoiding substances that may damage the liver — including alcohol — can help ensure the health of your new liver.

A patient infected with the hepatitis C virus at the time of the transplant is likely to continue to suffer from the effects of hepatitis C after the procedure. In this case, the virus may damage the new liver.

That being said, scientists continue to seek out the most effective hepatitis C treatment after a liver transplant. A 2010 study by the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan suggests that hepatitis C patients who receive extended courses of antiviral treatment after liver implants have an increased survival rate (2010).

Resources

American Liver Foundation. (2010). Liver transplant. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/transplant/.

Henry Ford Health System. (2010). Extended hepatitis C treatment after liver transplant may benefit patients. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100502173841.htm.

Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology. (2008). Liver transplant. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from http://www.gicare.com/endoscopy-center/liver-transplant.aspx.

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. (2006). Chronic hepatitis C: Current disease management. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/chronichepc/#g.