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Preventing Possible Medical Complications

In order to avoid complications associated with having a transplant, you need to keep a close eye on your physical health. It is very important that you know your body and how to take care of it. The following information will help you recognize, prevent and handle some of the possible medical complications.

Chronic Transplant Damage

Transplants do not always work for the rest of your life; the longer your transplant works, the healthier you will be. Periodically forgetting to take your anti-rejection medications can dramatically reduce the life span of your new transplant. The same is true for smoking, high blood sugars (poorly controlled diabetes) and high blood pressure. We strongly recommend you work with your team of doctors to control as many risks for transplant failure that you can, in order to enjoy your new transplant for as long as possible.

High Blood Pressure

Transplant recipients often have high blood pressure (or hypertension). To help keep your blood pressure normal, you should:

  • Limit salt intake
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid gaining weight
  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Attempt to limit stress in your life
  • Take any blood pressure medication your doctor prescribes

High Cholesterol

Transplant recipients often develop high cholesterol levels (or hyperlipidemia). To help keep your cholesterol levels under control, you should:

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid smoking
  • Take any cholesterol-lowering medication your doctor prescribes

Diabetes

Some transplant recipients develop diabetes after their transplant. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, you should:

  • Follow the diet your doctor or nutritionist recommends
  • Exercise regularly
  • Take any medication your doctor prescribes to control your blood sugar

Kidney Damage

Sometimes the anti-rejection medication you take to protect your new liver may cause some damage to your kidneys. Women and older patients may be especially susceptible. Also, if you have hepatitis C infection, diabetes, high blood pressure and/or kidney problems before your liver transplant, you may be at higher risk for kidney failure after your liver transplant. You may need dialysis or a kidney transplant to treat this condition.

Cancer

Transplant recipients are at greater risk for developing certain types of cancer such as skin cancer and rarely, lymphoma (lymph node cancer), and cervical cancer in women. Avoiding tanning or burning is the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of skin cancer. Examine yourself to look for possible signs of cancer, including:

  • Moles, birthmarks or spots on the skin that change color or increase in size or thickness
  • Sores that continue to itch, hurt, crust, scab or bleed, or that do not heal in three weeks
  • Continually swollen glands (lymph nodes) anywhere on your body
  • A lump in your breast
  • A lump in your testicle
  • Blood in your stools

Talk to your primary care doctor if you notice any of these changes. For more information on cancer, visit the American Cancer Society. For more information on skin cancer in patients who have transplants, visit the AT-RISC Alliance, an organization that uses education and awareness to help reduce the incidence and severity of skin cancer in transplant recipients.

Contact Information

Transplant Institute
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Lowry Medical Office Building, 7th Floor
110 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02215
617-632-9700