Thursday, February 19, 2009

Yesterday I Had a Liver Biopsy; Now We Wait

As I noted in a previous post, my liver enzymes are significantly elevated and I need to have a liver biopsy in order for my docs to determine what caused the spike. I did some online research and discovered that specific indicators will be present in liver tissue if I'm experiencing rejection; hence, bloodwork alone isn't enough to diagnose what is happening. (Another cause for the spike could be a Hep C flare up.)

My husband and I left our house at 5:00 a.m. yesterday and drove to my transplant center for the biopsy. I'm worried about what might be happening to my precious liver, but surprisingly enough, I wasn't as panicked yesterday as I've been on other occasions (however, I know I annoyed my husband with some back-seat driving; sorry, honey).

I'll tell you about my liver biopsy, in case you haven't had one. As far as liver transplant-related procedures go, this one is pretty easy. My visit to the transplant center started at the lab, where vampires drew some blood (EVERYTHING starts with a blood draw, it seems); the blood test was a PT/INR, which measures blood clotting time. Then we checked in at the GI waiting area and a few minutes later were sent upstairs to the procedure room. The docs and nurses reviewed paperwork with me, started an IV, gave me a warm blanket (it was chilly in there) and made certain that everything was ready to go.

Next, the doc used sonogram to indentify a good spot to do the biopsy (he chose to insert the needle between my ribs; needle placement is always critically important). Some patients choose to not have any pain medication for the procedure (a large group of liver transplant patients have no sensation in the area around their liver because many nerves are cut during transplant surgery; I still have feeling there so I always request pain meds). One or two minutes after the doctor marked the needle placement spot on my side, poof! - I was out. I came to about an hour later. Once the nurses were certain that I was fairly steady and conscious, they wheeled me to the hospital entrance where my husband was waiting, loaded me into the car and we were off. Lab draw and all, we were done in 3 1/2 hours.

The biggest impact on me was being sleepy from the meds; I slept on the way home and most of the afternoon and evening. Today I'm pretty much back to normal (although still a bit tired). I'm at the hardest part of the procedure, which is waiting for results.

A quick note about my transplant center: I have been critical about some of the care I received at my center, because it was poor. Yesterday, though, it couldn't have been better. The docs and nurses were absolutely wonderful, friendly and caring, and I'm impressed and grateful.

One last note: A reader left a comment about how pain meds weren't made available to him for his biopsy (he is waiting for a liver transplant). I think that's crazy. Why make a patient suffer? I believe we heal better when our bodies have been treated gently and with care; otherwise, we're healing from our illness/injury AND trying to recover from the impact of the pain.

Graphic courtesy of Medline Plus/A.D.A.M., Inc.

1 comment:


Waiting sucks.
When I had my first (and only) liver biopsy, they wouldn't knock me out. They said I had to be awake during the procedure and they gave me a local around the sight. That really makes me mad. I am at a different transplant center now so maybe my next one will be different. I hope you get your news soon.