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After surgery, you will be taken to the intensive care unit (ICU) for close monitoring and post-operative care. The care team will include transplant surgeons, intensive care unit nurse practitioners, nurses, and pharmacists. The medical equipment used to support your body during surgery usually is removed during the first few days after surgery, when they are no longer needed.

Most donors are released from the hospital about five to seven days after the operation. Here is how your recovery will look post-surgery before and after leaving the hospital:

Pain Control

  • A regional anesthetic (epidural) will be in place to block pain signals from reaching your brain from the surgical site.
  • Before leaving the hospital, your doctor will prescribe pain medicine for you to take by mouth. Your pain medication after donation will include Acetaminophen (Tylenol), along with additional medications as needed.


  • You will first start on a clear liquid diet which consists of apple juice, broth, tea, and Jell-O.  Once you are tolerating liquids, you will then advance to a general diet. Most patients are able to start eating and drinking about the third day after donor surgery.


  • On the first day after your surgery, you are expected to get out of bed and begin increasing physical activity as you can tolerate.
  • You will be given an incentive spirometer (blowing balloon) right after surgery. The nurse will teach you how to use it to help prevent pneumonia.


  • Blood tests will be done to check your liver function, both during your hospital stay and after you return home.
  • An ultrasound will be done to check your liver.

Preventing Blood Clots

  • To lower your risk of getting blood clots, you will receive blood-thinning medicine (anticoagulants) after surgery and during your hospital stay. Blood thinners carry a small risk of bleeding and stroke, but it is unlikely this will happen.
  • Walking often after surgery also will help lower your risk of getting blood clots.


  • You will have an incision in your abdomen closed with either staples or steri-strips.
    • Staples will be removed in the clinic two to three weeks after surgery.
    • Steri-strips fall off naturally.
  • Prevent wound infections by keeping your incision site clean. Use soap and water to wash your hands before touching the site; do not let other people touch your wound without first washing their hands with soap and water.
  • Within a few weeks after surgery, the portion of your liver that remains in your body will grow.


In order to avoid risk of blood clots, we advise donors who plan to travel to:

  • Stay in the Chicagoland area for four weeks after you are discharged from the hospital. After one month, you can travel within the U.S.
  • When you travel, it is important to:
    • Drink fluids
    • Extend and flex your legs at least 10 times every hour
    • Get up every hour to walk around and move your legs for at least 10–15 minutes
  • Do not travel outside the U.S. for 6 months after your donor surgery.