Liver Transplant in South Korea

More than 30,000-40,000 liver transplant cases are registered across the world annually. Liver, being one of the most vital organs, are responsible for controlling various metabolic functions inside the body. Thus, liver abnormality or damage, can have serious consequences resulting in death in extreme cases. Liver plays an important role in blood circulatory system via the hepatic portal system, as well as has key role in detoxification, metabolism, blood glucose regulation, digestion (by secreting necessary enzymes and hormones), etc., making it a major organ necessary for healthy survival. 

What is Liver transplantation?

Liver transplantation involves replacing the diseased or damaged liver of the sufferer, with healthy functioning liver from another donor. Hepatic transplantation can be furnished either from a living donor or a cadaveric (deceased) donor, depending on the availability of the organ. Pivoting on the severity, candidates may require either partial or complete transplantation. As per the current statistics, approximately 85-89% of transplantation possess one-year survival rate, and 75-78% five year (short-term) survival rate.

Ideal Candidates for Liver Transplant 

Before availing liver transplantation procedure, the patients are evaluated for ideal candidacy to be eligible for the surgery. Thus, ideal candidates for liver transplant may be people who:

  • Biliary cirrhosis
  • Suffer from Hepatitis type B or C
  • Damaged liver due to excessive alcohol consumption
  • Fatty liver condition
  • Liver cancer 
  • Sclerosing cholangitis
  • Autoimmune diseases 
  • Other end-stage liver damaging diseases.

Factors affecting the cost of Liver transplant surgery

The liver transplant cost may vary from $11,200 to $40,000, and depends on a number of aspects. The deciding factors that affect the cost are:

  • Type of disease that affects the liver
  • Extent of damage
  • Type of transplantation surgery required
  • Availability of healthy liver for donation
  • Country where the transplantation procedure is being availed
  • Multispecialty hospitality where procedure is being performed 
  • Proficiency and experience of the surgeons performing the operation
  • Duration and extent of post-operative care required
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About the Liver transplant

A liver transplant surgery is conducted to remove the diseased liver and replace it with a healthy liver donated by either a living or a deceased donor. There are a huge number of people who are listed on the waiting list for a liver transplant because the availability of donated liver is limited. This is the reason why a liver transplant is an expensive procedure and is conducted only in rare cases.

Qualifications for Liver Transplant Recipient

A healthy liver plays an important role in the human body. It plays a key role in the absorption and storage of key nutrients and medications and also helps eliminate bacteria and toxins from the blood.

However, a healthy liver may get diseased over a period of time due to many reasons. Patients with the following liver-related conditions are considered for the liver transplant procedure:

    • Acute liver failure triggered by drug-induced liver injury among other reasons
    • Chronic liver failure or end-stage liver disease due to liver cirrhosis
    • Hepatic tumour or cancer
    • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
    • Alcoholic liver disease
    • Chronic viral hepatitis
    • Diseases causing liver failure
      Some of the leading reasons that contribute to liver cirrhosis include the following:
    • Diseased bile ducts that carry the bile juice from the liver and small intestine to the gall bladder
    • Hemochromatosis, which is a genetic problem where the liver tends to build up iron undesirably
    • Wilson’s disease wherein the liver accumulates copper by itself
    • Biliary atresia in children, a condition wherein an infant is born without the bile ducts or has the ducts blocked or damaged
    • Liver cancers such as cholangiocarcinoma, hepatoblastoma, or hepatocellular carcinoma

 Liver Disease Symptoms

The patients with liver disease may experience the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Nausea and loss of appetite
  • Muscle and weight loss
  • Black stools and vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Problems with blood clotting
  • Confusion and forgetfulness
  • Build up of fluids in the abdomen

How is Liver transplant performed?

The surgery is scheduled as soon as a suitable donor, whether living or deceased, is identified. The patient undergoes the last set of tests and is prepared for the surgery. The liver transplant procedure is quite long and it takes around 12 hours for it to complete.

The patient is given general anesthesia prior to the surgery. It is administered through a tube inserted into the windpipe. A catheter for fluid drainage and an intravenous line are also placed for administration of medicines and other fluids.

What happens in a liver transplant?

The liver transplant surgeon makes an incision in the upper abdomen and the injured or the diseased liver is gradually detached from the common bile ducts and the connecting blood vessels.

The team clamps the duct and the vessels and then removes the liver. This common bile duct and the related blood vessels are now attached to the liver of the donor.

The donated liver is placed in the same location as the diseased liver after latter’s removal. Some tubes are placed near and around the newly transplanted liver to aid in the removal of fluids and blood from the abdominal region.

Another tube may be used to drain out bile from the transplanted liver into an external pouch. This helps surgeons assess whether the transplanted liver is producing enough bile or not.

In the case of a living donor, two different surgeries are performed. In the first surgery, a portion of the healthy liver is removed from the donor’s body. In the other surgery, the diseased liver is removed from the body of the recipient and the donor’s liver is placed in its position. The liver cells multiply further during the coming months to form entire liver from the piece of the donor liver.

Recovery from Liver transplant

Irrespective of whether the donated liver comes from a living or a deceased donor, the recipient requires the patient to stay in the hospital for at least one week after the surgery.

After completion of the surgery, the patient is taken to the anesthesia recovery room and then finally to the intensive care unit. After the condition of the patient stabilizes, the breathing tube for is removed and the patient is shifted to a normal hospital room.

Multiple monitoring lines are attached in the body of the patient to keep in check the stability of vital organ systems in the body. Liver transplant recovery time varies from one to eight weeks and the patient may be required to stay in the hospital during this period.

Initially, the patient is required to visit the hospital once a month after discharge to undergo a check for transplant compatibility other health-related issues. Later, the frequency can be decreased to once in a year.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the health care infrastructure of South Korea / Why should opt for South Korea as a destination for your medical treatment?
South Korea is recognized for its strict rules and regulations which have kept the country in strict discipline. As an upside, the country has well-maintained regulations for every process and impressive medical healthcare facilities which have garnered thousands of visitors from across the world. The reason for opting for hospitals in South Korea is the astounding treatment options available at a very cost-effective price range, which is undoubtedly more affordable than most of the developed countries across the world. Besides the well-planned infrastructure, the treatment in South Korea and the alternatives offered are tempting enough. Apart from that, the country also flaunts high success rates and has thus been able to cure some of the most complex diseases in the world.
What are the conditions of the hospitals in South Korea? Are they JCI certified? What is the quality of the support staff in the hospitals?
The Joint Commission International (JCI) is a global leader in health care accreditation. JCI accreditation is considered a gold standard in worldwide health care. It provides the most skilled and experienced healthcare professionals in the medical industry, as evaluators of the rigorous international standards in healthcare quality and patient safety. YUHS Severance Hospital + Gangnam Severance Hospital is a JCI certified hospital in South Korea.
Are the doctors/surgeons in South Korea of the best quality?
The doctors and surgeons providing treatments in South Korea are globally recognized for their service in the medical field. Furnished with degrees from reputed universities and decades of training and experience, the doctors have earned high success rates throughout their professional careers. The doctors have to undergo rigorous training to keep up with the strict protocol and measures of hospitals in South Korea. Hence, quality is maintained.
What is the process for obtaining a medical visa in South Korea?
The Korean embassy follows a strict protocol for obtaining a visa for traveling to the country. The necessary documents (photocopies and original) have been listed on their official website and should be strictly adhered to. The candidate also has to produce necessary papers stating the medical cause and referral certificate signed by the registered medical practitioner. Although these need to be taken care of by the candidate, the rest of the procedures and further visa assistance is managed by the sponsors in most cases. A Medical Dependent Visa is granted to those who are accompanying a patient traveling to Sount Korea for medical treatment on a Medical Visa. This visa can be given to a close relative/family member or a friend of the patient. Please note that relevant letters/documents explaining details of the treatment, signed and stamped by the concerned hospitals/doctors, a declaration from the patient or an immediate family member is also required confirming the escort travel along with the patient.
What support services does MediGence provide in South Korea?
MediGence enables you to plan and manage your medical decisions better. These are some of our services offered:
  • Expert Opinion
    We help you seek an Expert Opinion on your diagnosis and treatment from an experienced team of doctors at MediGence and specialists from a reputable hospital.
  • Hospital Recommendation
    We recommend a hospital or a healthcare institution that is best suited for you, based on your ailment and its criticality.
  • 360-degree Hospital Review
    We give you a transparent and holistic view of the hospital and its infrastructure, accreditation, facilities, and expertise to give you confidence.
  • Doctor Validation and Communication
    We share a comprehensive profile of the treating doctor and also arrange a call to clear queries regarding treatment if needed.
  • Options to Choose From
    Based on your choice of destination and other preferences, we provide you multiple options with respect to hospitals and doctors to choose from.
  • 24X7 Patient Care Support
    A dedicated patient case manager stays in constant touch with you to help you at every step of the decision-making process and resolve queries that you may have.
  • Transparent Treatment Cost and Other Expenses
    We give a clear and accurate indication of the total cost of treatment including treatment, stay, meals, and other expenses.
  • Visa Assistance
    We provide and help prepare documentation for visa approval and coordinate with the embassy to expedite the visa process.
  • Accommodation Arrangements
    We propose to you a choice of accommodation based on your preference such as long stay, short stay, or luxury properties.
Which are the best cities in South Korea for medical treatment?
Treatment in South Korea is affordable. Seoul is the capital of South Korea and one of the main cities for healthcare. Seoul and Daegu have some of the best hospitals in South Korea. Busan, Incheon, and Ulsan also have developing healthcare facilities.

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