The tried and true way to deal with liver cancer is by surgical resection. The hope is to remove the tumors and leave no microscopic cancer cells behind. A margin of normal tissue is included in the resected specimen. Unfortunately, surgery is only possible in a small percentage of patients who have liver tumors. Still, surgery is "gold standard" today against which other treatment plans are measured. This is an important part of the treatment plan of the patient who is a candidate. Both for hepatocellular carcinomas and for some cancers metastatic to the liver, surgical resection is a mainstay.
What is a liver resection?
A liver resection is when a section of the liver is removed by surgery. This surgery is performed as a treatment option for some cancers of the liver. It may also be performed on those willing to donate part of their liver to a loved one for organ donation. The liver is a vital organ and the onlly one that has the ability to regenerate itself. Up to 75% of the liver can be removed as long as the remaining liver tissue is healthy.
What do I need to do before surgery?
You will need to contact your insurance company to ensure that coverage and determine if a referral is required. A nurse will review your chart and confirm that all paperwork is in order. You will be taken to a pre-operative room, and an anesthesiologist will start an IV. Before any medications are administered, your surgeon will verify your name and the type of procedure you are having. You will then be taken to the operating room. After the appropriate form of anesthesia is administered, the surgery will be performed.
What type of anesthesia will be used?
You will have a pre-op interview with an anesthesiologist who will ask you questions regarding your medical history. A liver resection is usually performed under general anesthesia, which will keep you asleep during surgery.
What happens during surgery, and how is it performed?
An incision is made in the abdomen just below the rib cage. Your surgeon will carefully dissect the section of liver that is to be removed from the many veins, arteries, and bile ducts that support it. Once complete, the incision is closed with staples.
What happens after surgery?
Once the surgery is completed, you will be taken to a post-op or recovery room where a nurse will monitor your progress. It is important that your bandages be kept clean and dry. You may experience mild discomfort at the incision site, so your physician may prescribe pain medication.
How long will I be in the hospital?
Most patients will remain in the hospital for a week following a liver resection.
What are the risks associated with a liver resection?
As with any surgery, there are risks such as infection, or an adverse reaction to anesthesia. Your surgeon will inform you of the risks prior to surgery.
What should I watch out for?
Be sure to call your doctor if any of the following symptoms appear:
Will there be scar(s)?
A scar will remain where the incision was made. It should fade and be less visible over time.
When can I return to work and/or resume normal activities?
Light activity at home is encouraged after surgery. You can expect to return to normal activities such as showering, driving, walking up stairs, light lifting, and work as soon as you feel comfortable. If you are taking narcotic medictions for pain, you should not drive.