Your General Health Care after Liver Transplant

Your General Health Care after Liver Transplant

 

It is important to take care of your health after your transplant. Work with your Transplant Care Team, Primary Care Doctor and Liver Doctor (Hepatologist) to manage your care.

 

Exercise

You will need to exercise regularly to combat the side effects of your anti-rejection medicines. Exercise is also good for your mental health and physical well being. Slowly increase your level of exercise over time to avoid strain and serious injury.

Before starting any exercise program, check with your Transplant Care Team. They will help you plan an exercise routine that will best meet your needs.

If you are exercising and you have any of these problems, stop the exercise until you talk with your Transplant Coordinator:

  • Pain or pressure in your chest, neck or jaw.
  • Feeling tired even though you have been sleeping well.
  • Feeling more shortness of breath.
  • Dizziness or feeling light-headed during or after exercise.
  • Irregular heart beats during or after exercise.

If any of these problems persist after stopping exercise, call 911. 

 

Emotional health

It is important to take care of yourself in the first months after transplant. You may have changes in emotions or moods from the new medicines and new routines. 

Find positive ways to reduce stress and cope with your life changes. Let your Transplant Coordinator know if you need support. 

Many transplant patients and their families find it helpful to talk with other transplant patients and families through support groups. Others find it helpful to seek some counseling with a Social Worker or Counselor. Visit www.lifelineofohio.org for support group information, including meeting times and locations.

If you ever start to feel hopeless, have trouble sleeping, eating or problems thinking, talk with your Transplant Doctor, Social Worker or Coordinator about resources. You may need changes in medicines, or there may be ways to cope with side effects of medicines.

If you ever have thoughts of harming yourself or others, call your Coordinator or go to the nearest emergency department for help. 

 

Sexual activity

Talk to your Transplant Care Team at your first clinic visit after surgery about resuming sexual activity. You may be told it is safe when you feel well enough to do so or when you can climb 2 flights of stairs with no symptoms. Sexual functioning may be affected by the medicines you are taking and your transplant. Use birth control to prevent pregnancy.

 

Hair care

Cyclosporine, an anti-rejection medicine, may cause thicker, faster growing hair. Wait at least 6 months before using over the counter hair removal products. 

 

Sun exposure

Transplant patients have a high risk of skin and lip cancers. Since the risk increases over time, you must always protect your skin and lips from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. 

  • Use skin protective factor (SPF) of 30 or greater in sun block and lip balm, and reapply often. You should apply sun block 30 minutes before outdoor activities and reapply every 2 hours while outside. 
  • Avoid time in the sun between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • Wear a hat with a 4-inch brim, long sleeve clothing, and pants or long skirts.
  • Do not use tanning beds.
  • Get your skin checked once a year by a Dermatologist or any time you see any changes in your skin. 

 

Travel

Talk to your Transplant Care Team about travel. You may be told it is fine to:

  • Be driven for short trips after discharge from the hospital when you are able to wear a seat belt with no discomfort. 
  • Drive locally in 2 to 6 weeks if you are off of all narcotic pain medicines.
  • Do overnight trips in 6 weeks.
  • Do longer trips of 3 days or more in 8 weeks.

Talk to your Transplant Doctor about airplane travel.

If you plan to travel outside of the country, talk to your Transplant Coordinator to get the vaccines and medicines you need to prevent infections. Travel to some countries may not be safe since you cannot get some vaccines. If you decide to travel without being vaccinated, your Transplant Care Team will need to send a letter to your local passport bureau stating that you cannot receive the needed vaccines. 

 

Returning to work or school

Talk to your Transplant Care Team at your clinic visits about returning to work or school. The timing will depend on your recovery and the type of work you do. Most transplant patients can return to work and continue their health benefits. You may need some job training before you can return to work. Be aware that disability benefits are available for a limited time. Talk to your Social Worker about your concerns. 

 

Dental care

  • Anti-rejection medicines can cause infections in your mouth. Brush your teeth 2 times a day and brush your tongue and top of your mouth each day to prevent infection. Floss your teeth each day to help prevent gum disease.
  • Resume your routine dental care 3 months after your transplant. Let your Transplant Coordinator know about dental appointments. Tell your Dentist that you have had a transplant when having dental work done. Antibiotics should be taken before all dental appointments to prevent infections. 
  • Call your Transplant Coordinator if you have sores, gum overgrowth or white patches in your mouth. 

 

Eye care

  • Prednisone, a steroid medicine, may cause some changes in vision. Cataracts can form. See an Eye Doctor if you have any changes in your eyesight, such as blurring or seeing halos around lights.
  • Avoid getting any new eye glass prescription until after 3 months after your transplant because of possible vision changes.
  • See an Eye Doctor each year for a routine check up.
  • Report any vision changes or problems to your Transplant Coordinator. 

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Skin care

  • Call your Transplant Coordinator if you find any unusual skin growths, rashes or discoloration.
  • Prednisone and aspirin may make you prone to bruising. Be careful to avoid bumps and falls. 

 

Pregnancy

Women should avoid pregnancy for at least one year after transplant. Talk to your Transplant Care Team or Primary Care Doctor about birth control. Talk to your Transplant Care Team about your plans for pregnancy, so health risks can be discussed. 

 

Caring for plants

Avoid contact with live plants, mulch and soil during the first 3 months after your transplant. Many organisms live and grow in the soil.

After the first 3 months, if you like to garden and work with plants, always wear gloves and a N95 face mask when working in the soil. Wash your hands with soap and water after contact with plants and soil. 

 

Caring for animals

We know that pets can be an important part of your family. You will need to find a new home for pet birds, reptiles and turtles. For other pets, follow these safety tips:

  • Do not handle animal waste.
  • Do not clean litter boxes, cages and fish tanks.

Feces of some animals contain parasites. Fungus can grow in fish tanks. 

 

Tattoos and body piercings

Getting tattoos and body piercings after transplant are highly discouraged due to the risk of infection. 

 

Smoking

Smoking and tobacco use should be avoided after organ transplant.

Smoking is harmful to anyone taking anti-rejection medicines. It damages the transplanted organ(s) and can lead to an increased chance of infection. It can also increase the risk of cancer.

If you are a smoker, join a tobacco cessation program in your area and talk to your Primary Care Doctor for support or call:

  • Ohio Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669)
  • Quit for Life program from the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345
  • American Lung Association at 1-800-586-4872
  • BeTobaccoFree.gov Smoking Quit Line at 1-877-448-7848

You may also call one of these Ohio State clinics:

  • Ross Heart Hospital Smoking Cessation Clinic at 614-293-0932
  • The Lung Center, Tobacco Dependence Clinic at 614-293-4925

 

© 2008 – July 26, 2019, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

This handout is for informational purposes only. Talk with your doctor or healthcare team if you have any questions about your care. For more health information, call the Library for Health Information at 614-293-3707 or email: health-info@osu.edu.