What is hepatectomy?

Surgery to remove part of the liver is called liver resection or hepatectomy. Surgery is carried out to remove the part of the liver that contains the tumor, both malignant and benign. Malignant tumors can include primary liver tumors or metastases from other organs. Among benign tumors, the doctor may recommend surgery for liver cysts, liver adenoma, focal nodular hyperplasia, or cavernous hemangiomas that grow to produce symptoms. Surgery may also be recommended to prevent complications or because of the possibility of malignancy.

The part of the liver that remains in the body after surgery regenerates and grows within two to three months after surgery.

Surgery may require removal of the bile duct. Drainage of bile from the liver is done using a loop of intestine sewn into the bile duct that remains in the liver.

Previous considerations

Before any surgery, an assessment should be carried out by the anesthetist where they will advise you which medication you should stop taking and which you should continue taking. Sometimes you must be evaluated by another specialist if you have underlying diseases.

In the case of anticoagulant treatment or treatment that facilitates bleeding, the anesthesiologist, haematologist, cardiologist or family doctor will inform about the attitude to follow.

Normally you should be evaluated by Hematology before the intervention since they must draw blood to study your blood group and make a reserve of blood bags for the day of the intervention. In this surgery, bleeding is an important complication, so we must offer you maximum safety. For your peace of mind, most of our patients do not require a blood transfusion.

In the case of smoking, the habit should be stopped because it facilitates anesthetic management, smoker patients have more complications than smokers in anesthetic procedures.

It is recommended to perform moderate-intensity exercise before any intervention, unless there is a specific contraindication, such as walking at least 60 minutes a day.

How is the preparation prior to the intervention?


In preparation for a hepatectomy, your surgeon may ask you to:

  • Do not eat anything before surgery. You may have a sip of water with your medications, but avoid eating and drinking for at least six hours before surgery.
  • Discontinue certain medications and supplements. Talk to your doctor about all medications and supplements you take. You continue to take most medications as directed by your doctor. Your doctor may ask you to stop certain medications and supplements because they can increase your risk of bleeding.

How is the surgery performed? (type of incision, resection, type of drainage, anesthesia)


A hepatectomy is performed under general anesthesia, so you won’t be conscious during the procedure. Numbing medications are given intravenously into the arm. Once the medications take effect, your health care team will insert a tube down your throat to help you breathe, place a catheter to monitor your urine, and place lines in your neck and wrist to administer drugs and learn about your heart function.

You may have an epidural catheter or injection into your spine, as well as local nerve blocks in your abdominal wall. These procedures allow you to recover with minimal pain and discomfort after surgery and help reduce the amount of opioid pain medication you’ll need.

Your surgeon will perform the hepatectomy using a laparoscopic or open procedure.


Depending on your situation, your surgeon will recommend one of two surgical approaches:

Minimally invasive (laparoscopic) hepatectomy

During a laparoscopic hepatectomy, the surgeon makes four to six small incisions in the abdomen. He inserts a tube with a tiny video camera into his abdomen through one of the incisions. The surgeon watches a video monitor in the operating room while using surgical tools inserted through the other incisions in the abdomen to remove the diseased part of the liver.

One of the incisions will be enlarged to remove the piece of liver removed. The incisions are then sutured and you are moved to a recovery area. A laparoscopic hepatectomy takes between three and six hours. Very specialized instruments are used to prevent bleeding during the intervention.

A laparoscopic hepatectomy is not appropriate for everyone. In some cases, the surgeon may start with a laparoscopic approach and determine that a larger incision is necessary due to scar tissue from operations, previous complications, or an inability to safely continue with the procedure.

Traditional (open) hepatectomy.

During an open hepatectomy, the surgeon makes an incision about 20-25 centimeters in the abdomen below the ribs on the right side. Muscle and tissue are retracted to reveal the liver. Next, the surgeon removes the diseased part of the liver.

The incision is sutured and you are transferred to a post-anesthetic recovery area. An open cholecystectomy takes between two and four hours. Very specialized instruments are used to prevent bleeding during the intervention. It is usually performed when the procedure cannot be carried out with maximum safety through the laparoscopic approach due to the complexity of the case.

Sometimes it is necessary to place a tube or drain inside the abdomen with an outlet through the skin to allow the discharge of fluid from the area where the diseased part of the liver was. This tube will be removed prior to discharge home.


After surgery, the patient is transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where he will remain for 24 hours if there are no incidents. It is possible that the anesthesiologist will remove the connection to a breathing machine in the operating room or the doctor in charge of your surveillance in the ICU will do it. You will slowly wake up from the effects of the anesthetic drugs so you may have a feeling of not remembering the process. After your stay in this unit you will then be transferred to your room.

How is the recovery in the hospital?

It is possible to feel nausea or abdominal pain after the intervention but they will be controlled with the prescribed medication. After about 8 hours, he will begin with the intake of liquids and the next day solid foods. We recommend sitting down and starting to walk about 24 hours after the intervention. The catheter that is inserted into your bladder will be removed in 1 or 2 days. At all times you will be supervised and helped by nursing staff.

If your surgery progresses on the floor without any incident, you will remain hospitalized for between 3 and 7 days.

How is the recovery at home?

Our premise is to be active in recovery. For this reason, we encourage the patient to walk daily, we recommend walking at least 60 minutes each day both inside and outside the house. Important physical efforts that may affect wound healing should always be avoided.

When you are discharged home, you will be prescribed medication to make you feel as comfortable as possible. You will resume your previous medication following the surgeon’s recommendations, since some drug may not be recommended in the first days after surgery. Normally the taking of painkillers is indicated to control the pain and the injection of heparin to avoid the appearance of thrombi in your legs.

In relation to food, we recommend the first week to avoid copious and fat-rich meals. Subsequently, all types of food will be progressively reintroduced, with possible intolerance of some of them, so their intake will be suspended and they will be tried again in the following weeks. Occasionally diarrhea may appear that usually lasts a few days or a week in relation to the new situation of the digestive system.

You can wet your wounds when you wash yourself and then gently dry them with the application of any antiseptic (chlorhexidine, povidone-iodine, crystalmine…). These wounds should be evaluated by nursing around 7 and 10 days after surgery.

Virtually full recovery can take approximately three to four weeks for laparoscopic hepatectomy. However, with open hepatectomy, once at home, full recovery may take four to six weeks. It will depend on your physical condition before surgery and the complexity of the operation.

What are the risks of liver surgery?

The normal thing is that your intervention proceeds without incidents but you must know the potential complications. 

Less serious and frequent risks: Infection or bleeding from the surgical wound, phlebitis (inflammation of the veins), temporary digestion disorders. Pleural effusion. Prolonged pain in the area of ​​the operation.

Infrequent and serious risks: Dehiscence of the laparotomy (opening of the wound). Biliary fistula. Intra-abdominal bleeding or infection. Intestinal obstruction. Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). Cholangitis (infection of the bile ducts). Jaundice. Liver failure.

In most cases, these complications are resolved with medical treatment (drugs, serums, etc.), and sometimes other tests (ERCP and/or drainage) are required, but they may require a reoperation, usually urgently., and exceptionally death may occur.


Dr. Mohd. Zahid

MBBS, MS – General Surgery General Surgeon, Laparoscopic Surgeon in Laxmi Nagar, East Delhi 7...

Dr. (Mrs.) Almas Qureshi

Dr Almas Qureshi: Your Trusted Physician, Diabetologist, and Heart Specialist in Laxmi Nagar, East...

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