Liver Surgery

Liver surgery comprises various operations of the liver for different disorders. The most common operation performed on the liver is a resection (removal of a portion of the liver). The most typical indication for liver resection is a malignant tumor.

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Tumors can be primary (developed in the liver) or metastatic (developed in another organ, then migrated to the liver). The majority of liver metastases come from the colon; although, liver metastases from other sites are occasionally considered for resection if the primary disease has been controlled.

Liver resections

Patients are carefully evaluated by a multidisciplinary team to ensure the absence of the extrahepatic (outside the liver) tumor. In rare instances, resection of tumor in both the liver and other sites can be done with a chance for cure; however, this is the exception not the rule.

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Liver resections performed on patients with extrahepatic disease may relieve the symptoms caused by the tumor but offer little improvement in survival. In highly selected cases, liver transplantation may be offered to patients with primary liver tumors limited to the liver that would otherwise be unresectable.

Benign tumors of the liver (cyst, adenoma, hemangioma) can be successfully managed by liver resection as well. If the location of a benign tumor is superficial and small in size, the operation can be performed laparoscopically (by making small punctures in the abdomen while viewing through a video camera).

Liver resections are also performed on people willing to donate part of their liver to a loved one during live donor liver transplant.

Surgery details

  • A liver resection takes approximately three to five hours and usually can be performed without the need for blood transfusion.
  • Up to 80 percent of the liver tissue can be safely removed.
  • The hospital stay is about six days and complete recovery occurs in five to six weeks.
  • The resected liver regenerates to its preoperative size in six to eight weeks.
  • Excellent results from liver resections are usually achieved.

Alan Hemming, MD, is one of the few liver surgeons in the country to have successfully performed “ex-vivo” liver resection during which the liver is completely removed from the body, the tumor is cut away, and then the tumor free liver is reimplanted in the body.

UC San Diego Health offers all modalities of treatment of liver tumors including: