What is a Liver Resection?

Malcolm Tatum

A liver resection is a surgical procedure in which a portion of the liver is removed. As part of the process, bile ducts and arteries connected to the segment that is removed are rerouted to the remaining sections of the liver, allowing the organ to continue functioning. Liver resection surgery usually takes place after a section of the liver is permanently damaged due to the presence of a malignancy or because of a severe trauma to the organ.

The human liver is one organ that can have a section harvested from a living person.
The human liver is one organ that can have a section harvested from a living person.

Because the liver is essential to human life, a liver resection is sometimes conducted in order to harvest all or a segment of a healthy liver from a donor. This most often occurs after the death of a donor who has willed his or her body for organ harvesting. The segment or the entire harvested liver is extracted from the deceased donor and used to save the life of a patient whose liver is failing and cannot be repaired.

Liver resection involves removing a portion of a person's liver.
Liver resection involves removing a portion of a person's liver.

In situations where the surgeon deems that the liver can be salvaged, a procedure to reshape the liver will take place. With a liver cancer resection, the surgeon will carefully detach any bile ducts, arteries, or veins that are connected to the segment that is damaged by the tumor. At this point, the surgeon carefully reattaches the ducts and arteries to healthy sections of the liver, making it possible for the remaining portion of the organ to continue functioning normally. Once the connections are complete, the diseased or damaged portion is surgically removed, and the open section of the liver is closed.

With liver resection, it is still more common to make an incision and deal with the damaged or infected liver. However, laparoscopic liver resection can effectively treat many situations and also minimize the recovery time for the patient. A surgeon can assess the situation and determine which form of surgery would be in the best interests of the patient.

As with any type of invasive procedure, there is the chance of some liver resection complications. The tumor may be larger than originally thought, making it necessary to remove more of the liver than originally planned. In some cases, the liver may be so infected that it is not possible to salvage the organ. At that point, a donor to provide a health liver section is sought, either by checking with organ banks or testing relatives to see if anyone is a close enough match to minimize the chances of rejection.

In terms of liver resection recovery, the patient is likely to experience the pain associated with any type of surgical procedure. Usually, the pain should crest within two to three days after the procedure, then gradually subside. During the convalescent period, it is essential to watch for any type of swelling, leakage from the incision or any significant increases in the general body temperature. Any unusual symptoms should be reported immediately, so they can be addressed and treated as deemed necessary by the attending physician.

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