Care while waiting for a liver transplant

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It is hard to specify how long it will take before a donor liver becomes available and so waiting is unavoidable. Each patient’s condition may change during this period and their new circumstances will have to be managed accordingly. They should also prepare themselves for the surgical transplant procedure. 

The best way to prepare for a liver transplant is to gradually acquire healthy lifestyle habits and learn to prevent potential complications from arising during the waiting period.

Healthy lifestyle habits and preventive care

Healthy lifestyle habits are all activities of daily living that affect our physical, mental and social wellbeing. 


Diet. Patients should follow a complete, varied diet adapted to their personal needs. The diet should be designed to prevent malnutrition and/or obesity, which could even contraindicate a transplant, and prevent or improve other complications such as ascites, infections, delayed healing and pressure sores, which could have a negative impact on the patient’s survival and quality of life.

Man running; regular physical exercise

Physical activity. It has been shown that people with liver disorders can improve their condition by carrying out moderate physical activity on a regular basis. Physical activity provides the following benefits: reduces fatigue and pain, decreases the risk of falls, improves strength, reduces the chances of complications during surgery and improves the post-transplant recovery process.

Person lying in bed resting

Sufficient rest. Physical and mental wellbeing suffer in the light of insufficient or poor quality rest. Patients must therefore find a balance between daily physical activity and sufficient rest.

Beer mug and joint crossed out; no drug consumption

Abstinence from toxic substances. The use of toxic substances (alcohol, tobacco, tranquillisers and other drugs) represents a significant health risk. It is therefore vital for patients to abstain from these substances before and after the transplant. If patients consume these substances while on the waiting list, then they will be excluded as a candidate until they demonstrate their abstinence through regular blood tests. Patients found to be using toxic substances on a second occasion will be permanently excluded from the waiting list. 

Person sitting at a table with several documents

Hygiene and postural habits. These are accident and disease prevention standards. They present the ideal conditions for a better quality of life and describe one of the basic principles of prevention; good hygiene (body, postural and clothing).

Wash hands with water and a bar of soap

Frequent handwashing, especially before meals.

A person taking a shower

Daily personal hygiene.

Brushing teeth after eating

Oral hygiene after each meal.


Reduce exposure to the sun and use sunscreens with a sun protection factor of at least 30.

Doctor talking to a patient

Attend preventive check-ups with the ophthalmologist, dermatologist, dentist, gynaecologist, etc.

Preventing complications

Liver diseases can course with other complications such as ascites and oedemas (fluid retention in the abdomen or legs), hepatic encephalopathy (disorientation), haemorrhage and fever. Patients must pay attention to any changes and get in touch with their referring physician and/or visit emergency services if they develop any new symptoms (fever, yellowing of the skin, abdominal pain, discomfort while urinating, vomiting blood, bloody stools, etc.).

Substantiated information by:

Constantino Fondevila Campo
Eva López Benages
Miquel A. Navasa Anadon
Raquel García Muñoz

Published: 20 February 2018
Updated: 20 February 2018


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