Liver Transplant Rejection: Signs and Symptoms

Liver Transplant Rejection: Signs and Symptoms

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Liver transplant rejection occurs when the body’s immune system recognizes the newly transplanted liver as a foreign object and attempts to attack and destroy it. This phenomenon poses a significant threat to the success of liver transplantation, which is often a life-saving procedure for individuals with end-stage liver disease. Despite advancements in immunosuppressive therapies, rejection remains a potential complication that transplant recipients must be vigilant about.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of liver transplant rejection is crucial for early detection and prompt intervention to preserve the health of the transplanted organ and the overall well-being of the recipient. In this article, we will explore the various manifestations of liver transplant rejection, enabling recipients and caregivers to recognize and respond to this critical issue effectively.

Understanding Liver Transplant Rejection

Liver transplant rejection occurs when the recipient’s immune system recognizes the transplanted liver as foreign tissue and initiates an immune response to attack it. This reaction can occur any time after the transplant, but it’s most common in the initial months following the procedure when the immune system is highly active. Rejection can be classified into three main types: hyperacute rejection, acute rejection, and chronic rejection. Each type varies in severity and onset.

Hyperacute rejection is rare and typically occurs within the first 24 hours after transplantation. Acute rejection is more common and can manifest within the first few weeks to months post-transplant. Chronic rejection develops gradually over months to years and is characterized by progressive deterioration of the transplanted liver.

Signs and Symptoms of Liver Transplant Rejection

  • Fatigue and Weakness: Recipients may experience unexplained fatigue and weakness, significantly impacting daily activities. This symptom is often non-specific but should be monitored closely, especially if it persists or worsens over time.
  • Jaundice: Jaundice, indicated by yellowing of the skin and eyes, can be a sign of liver dysfunction. It occurs when the liver cannot process bilirubin adequately, leading to its accumulation in the body. Jaundice may indicate acute rejection or other liver complications and requires immediate medical attention.
  • Abdominal Pain: Recipients may experience abdominal discomfort or pain ranging from mild to severe. This pain may be localized to the right upper quadrant, where the liver is situated and can be accompanied by tenderness upon palpation.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Rejection can cause nausea and vomiting, particularly after meals. These symptoms may persist and contribute to poor appetite and weight loss.
  • Fever: Fever is a common sign of inflammation and immune activation, characteristic rejection features. Recipients should monitor their body temperature regularly and seek medical evaluation if fever persists or is accompanied by other symptoms.
  • Changes in Laboratory Values: Routine blood tests, such as liver function tests and complete blood count, can reveal abnormalities indicative of rejection. Elevated liver enzymes, bilirubin levels, and decreased platelet counts may suggest liver dysfunction and warrant further investigation.
  • Changes in Urine Color: Dark urine, resulting from bilirubin, can indicate liver dysfunction and potential rejection. Recipients should notify their healthcare providers if they observe changes in urine color or consistency.
  • Swelling: Swelling of the abdomen, legs, or feet may occur due to fluid retention, a common complication of liver dysfunction. This symptom should be monitored closely, as it can indicate worsening rejection or other underlying issues.
  • Itching: Pruritus, or itching of the skin, can occur due to bile duct obstruction or liver dysfunction. While itching is often benign, persistent or severe, itching may warrant further evaluation for rejection or other complications.
  • Changes in Mental Status: In severe cases of rejection, recipients may experience confusion, disorientation, or changes in mental status. These neurological symptoms can result from hepatic encephalopathy, a condition characterized by impaired brain function due to liver dysfunction.


In conclusion, liver transplantation is a life-saving procedure for individuals with end-stage liver disease, offering hope for improved health and quality of life. However, the risk of rejection remains a significant concern, emphasizing the importance of early detection and intervention through vigilant monitoring of symptoms.


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Reviewed By :- Fauzia Zeb Fatima

Tanya Bose

Tanya Bose is a medical content writer with expert knowledge in Biotechnology. She has received her graduation and post-graduation qualifications from Amity University. Her extensive understanding of medical science enables her to effectively and concisely convey novel ideas in posts, blogs, and articles, making them understandable to the intended readers.

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