Liver Transplant Rejection

Liver Transplant Rejection

A liver transplant is a life-altering procedure that can improve your quality of life, if successful. In some cases, however, transplant recipients experience a condition known as rejection, in which their immune system recognizes the donor organ as “foreign” and attempts to destroy it.

Most people who receive a transplant are able to accept the organ, but a certain minority may suffer from various types of rejection. Knowing the signs and symptoms of a liver rejection is essential to getting prompt medical attention if you do experience this condition.

Types of Liver Transplant Rejection

One of the most common types of liver rejection is known as hyperacute rejection. This is a condition in which preformed antibodies that recognize the donated organ as foreign attack it almost immediately. In some cases, this results in irreversible damage and the organ may need to be removed.

The second type of liver transplant rejection is known as acute rejection. In this case, the recipient’s immune system begins to recognize the foreign organ and may begin attacking it. This type of rejection is more common than hyperacute rejection and typically occurs several weeks or months after the transplant. This type of liver rejection may be treated with immunosuppression drugs.

The third type of liver transplant rejection, known as chronic rejection, is the most difficult to diagnose. It usually begins gradually and is not always noticed right away. Eventually, it can lead to scarring of the liver and organ failure. Unfortunately, this type of rejection is often irreversible.

Symptoms of Liver Transplant Rejection

If you have recently received a liver transplant, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of rejection. The symptoms may vary depending on the type of rejection, but may include:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased appetite
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Fever
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
  • Itching
  • Nausea and vomiting

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention immediately, as a prompt diagnosis and treatment may be necessary to prevent serious organ damage.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Liver Transplant Rejection

If you experience symptoms of liver transplant rejection, your doctor may order laboratory tests such as a liver biopsy or imaging studies to assess the organ's condition. In some cases, the affected area may need to be surgically removed.

If the rejection is mild, it may be resolved with immunosuppressive drugs such as steroids, tacrolimus, or mycophenolate. However, in more serious cases, a second transplant may be necessary.

It is important to keep in mind that rejection is a risk for any transplant recipient. However, with prompt diagnosis and treatment, this risk can be minimized and the transplant recipient can have many years of improved quality of life.