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Hepatic Resection


Hepatic resection is surgery to remove a portion of the liver.

Reasons for Procedure

Hepatic resection is most often used to treat cancer in the liver. It can also be done for the following reasons:

  • Treat other tumors in the liver, including non-cancerous lesions
  • Treat cancer that has spread to the liver—most often seen in those with colon cancer
  • Liver transplant donation
  • Treat trauma to the liver
Liver Disease from Cirrhosis
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Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Excess bleeding
  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Infection
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Low blood sugar
  • Liver failure

Factors that may increase the chance of complications:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Chronic diseases, such as diabetes, liver disease, or obesity

Long-term side effects are uncommon. This is because the liver is able to regrow and function normally within a few months. However, this regrowth can happen more slowly in older people.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

The doctor may do some of the following:

  • Physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Liver function tests
  • Chemotherapy to shrink liver tumors
  • Imaging tests evaluate structures in and around the liver. They can also determine the exact location of the tumors. Contrast material may be used to make structures and abnormalities easier to see. Imaging tests may include:

Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.


General anesthesia will be used. It will block any pain and keep you asleep through the surgery.

Description of the Procedure

The doctor will make an incision in the right upper abdomen, under the rib cage. The doctor will remove any tumors on the liver and some of the surrounding healthy tissue. Sometimes the gallbladder will also need to be removed. The doctor may use an ultrasound probe to examine the liver during surgery to make sure there are no remaining tumors. Your doctor may leave a drain going from inside your abdomen to outside your body. This will drain any blood or leakage from the liver. The doctor will close your incision with stitches or staples.

Immediately After Procedure

You will be taken to the intensive care unit for about 24 hours. The hospital staff will monitor you.

How Long Will It Take?

3-7 hours

How Much Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.

Average Hospital Stay

The usual length of stay is 3-7 days. The doctor may choose to keep you longer if there are complications.

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital
  • You will receive nutrition through an IV. It will be removed once you are eating and drinking.
  • You may have drains from the incision site to help the wound heal properly. Drains are usually removed before you leave the hospital.
  • You may have a small catheter put into your bladder to drain urine. It will be removed in a few days.
  • You will be given medications to manage pain. These may be given through injections, your IV, or through a pump attached to a needle in your arm.
  • You may be given medications to prevent nausea.
Preventing Infection

During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection, such as:

  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves or masks
  • Keeping your incisions covered

There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection, such as:

  • Washing your hands often and reminding your healthcare providers to do the same
  • Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
  • Not allowing others to touch your incision
At Home

Recovery takes up to 6 weeks. Your doctor may advise pain medications for discomfort. Your activity will be restricted while you recover. Follow instructions on wound care to prevent infection.

Call Your Doctor

Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications, such as:

  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, warmth, drainage, or bulging at the incision site
  • Yellow skin color
  • Itchy skin
  • Changes in mental status
  • Persistent nausea and/or vomiting
  • Severe abdominal pain and/or swelling
  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
  • Feeling weak or lightheaded

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.

Revision Information

  • American Cancer Society

  • American Liver Foundation

  • Canadian Cancer Society

  • Canadian Liver Foundation

  • Fernandez, FG, Drebin, JA, Linehan DC, et al. Five-year survival after resection of hepatic metastases from colorectal cancer in patients screened by positron emission tomography with F-18 fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG-PET). Ann Surg. 2004;240(3):438.

  • Hartog A, Mills G. Anaesthesia for hepatic resection surgery. Contin Educ Anaesth Crit Care Pain. 2009;9(1):1-5.

  • Lai LW. Hepatic resection for colorectal liver metastases. Singapore Med J. 2007;48(7):635.

  • Treatment for secondary liver cancer. Macmillan Cancer Support website. Available at: Updated January 1, 2013. Accessed February 26, 2014.

  • van den Broek MA, Olde Damink SM, Dejong CH, et al. Liver failure after partial hepatic resection: Definition, pathophysiology, risk factors, and treatment. Liver Int. 2008;28(6):767-780.

  • Zakaria S, Donohue JH, Que FG, et al. Hepatic resection for colorectal metastases: value for risk scoring systems? Ann Surg. 2007;246 (2):183-191.

  • 6/6/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, et al. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.