Livers are one of the most important organs in the body. They handle glycogen storage, protein synthesis, hormone production, detoxification, and the decomposition of red blood cells. Simply put, you cannot live without a liver. However, certain activities are known to damage the liver, such as long-term alcohol abuse and use of certain dietary supplements such as Hydroxycut, which has recently been at the center of several class-action suits.
When your liver becomes too damaged to function properly, you are in serious danger. Your body’s ability to eliminate toxins is greatly reduced, and over time your body begins to be poisoned from the inside. In general, the liver is a highly resilient organ that can actually repair itself, although in certain progressed cases of liver damage, a liver transplant is the only option.
The first successful liver transplant occurred in 1967, and the process was improved so dramatically by the 1980s that the procedure became a standard medical response to severe liver disease. Over a hundred medical facilities in the United States alone now perform the procedure, and the one-year survival rate of patients has increased from a dismal 25% in the 1960s to around 85% today.
Because there is a demand for new livers that outweighs the supply of livers (seeing that a healthy liver requires the death of the donor), there are certain conditions that preclude the procedure. If you have metastatic cancer, drug or alcohol dependency problems, and septic issues are issues which will cause your request for a liver transplant to be denied, while being HIV-positive is becoming more acceptable. Advanced age and serious heart disease also make it more difficult to obtain a liver transplant, although they do not completely preclude it.
Usually the damaged liver is removed from the patient, the liver being replaced with a healthy donor liver, which is fit into the same anatomic place from which the damaged liver was removed. This is called orthotopic transplantation. After the transplant, though, the liver will be rejected by the body unless immunosuppressive drugs are taken to prevent the body’s immune system from attacking what it perceives as a dangerous foreign object. These pills have to be taken for the rest of your life to prevent death.