About Your Liver Surgery

About Your Surgery

This guide will help you prepare for your liver surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK), and help you understand what to expect during your recovery. Read through this guide at least once before your surgery and then use it as a reference in the days leading up to your surgery. Bring this guide with you every time you come to MSK, including the day of your surgery, so that you and your healthcare team can refer to it throughout your care.

There are several kinds of liver surgeries to treat cancer. One is called a liver resection, in which the part of the liver with the tumors is removed. Another is called liver ablation, which kills cancer cells by exposing them to very high temperatures or electric currents.

Your doctor will explain which type of surgery you will have. Some patients may have a combination of both a liver resection and a liver ablation.

About the Liver

Your liver is a large organ located on the right side of your body, just under your ribs. It’s shaded in the figure Your Liver, below. Your liver has many vital functions, including:

  • Storing and filtering blood
  • Making bile, which helps with the breakdown of food (digestion), especially of protein and fat
  • Changing sugar into a form your body can use for energy
  • Helping your body get rid of waste products
  • Making the substances that your blood needs to clot

The healthy part of your liver that is left after surgery will grow larger to replace the part that was resected. It should return to its original size within a few weeks. However, it will take longer for your liver to be fully functional.

Liver Surgery

Figure 1. Your liver

Your surgeon will make an incision(s) to see your liver clearly. He or she will decide the size of the incision and if a minimally invasive technique, (which makes very small incisions and uses cameras for guidance) is appropriate for you. Then, your surgeon will inspect your liver using an ultrasound to confirm the location and number of tumors in it.

If your surgeon is removing a tumor, he or she will also need to take out a small amount of healthy tissue around it. The amount of tissue that will be removed depends on the size and location of the tumor(s).

Your surgeon may decide that the best way to treat your tumor(s) is to ablate it. There are different methods used for liver ablation. Radio frequency ablation (RFA) and microwave ablation kill cancer cells by heating them. Irreversible electroporation is a new method of ablation which uses an electric current to kill cancer cells.

Liver ablation methods can be used individually, in combination with a liver resection, or in combination with one another. The exact treatment differs from patient to patient.

The length of your surgery will depend on how many tumors need to be treated. Most surgeries take between 2 and 4 hours but others may be longer. Your surgeon may close your incision with staples, stitches that dissolve and will not need to be removed, or glue.

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Before Your Surgery

The information in this section will help you prepare for your surgery. Read through this section when your surgery is scheduled and refer to it as your surgery date gets closer. It contains important information about what you need to do before your surgery. Write down any questions you have and be sure to ask your doctor or nurse.

Preparing for Your Surgery

You and your healthcare team will work together to prepare for your surgery.

About Drinking Alcohol

The amount of alcohol you drink can affect you during and after your surgery. It is important that you talk with your healthcare providers about your alcohol intake so that we can plan your care.

  • Stopping alcohol suddenly can cause seizures, delirium, and death. If we know you are at risk for these complications, we can prescribe medication to help prevent them.
  • If you use alcohol regularly, you may be at risk for other complications during and after surgery. These include bleeding, infections, heart problems, greater dependence on nursing care, and a longer hospital stay.

Here are things you can do to prevent problems before your surgery:

  • Be honest with your healthcare provider about how much alcohol you drink.
  • Try to stop drinking alcohol once your surgery is planned. If you develop a headache, nausea, increased anxiety, or cannot sleep after you stop drinking, tell your doctor right away. These are early signs of alcohol withdrawal and can be treated.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you cannot stop drinking.
  • Ask us any questions you have about drinking and surgery. As always, all of your treatment information will be kept confidential.
Help us keep you safe during your surgery by telling us if any of the following statements apply to you, even if you aren’t sure.
  • I take a blood thinner. Some examples are heparin, warfarin (Coumadin®), enoxaparin (Lovenox®), clopidogrel (Plavix®), and tinzaparin (Innohep®). There are others, so be sure your doctor knows all the medications you’re taking.
  • I take prescription medications.
  • I take any over-the-counter medications, herbs, vitamins, minerals, or natural or home remedies.
  • I have a pacemaker, automatic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (AICD), or other heart device.
  • I have sleep apnea.
  • I have had a problem with anesthesia in the past.
  • I have allergies, including to latex.
  • I am not willing to receive a blood transfusion.
  • I drink alcohol.
  • I smoke.
  • I use recreational drugs.

About Smoking

People who smoke can have breathing problems when they have surgery. Stopping even for a few days before surgery can help. If you smoke, your nurse will refer to you our Tobacco Treatment Program. You can also reach the program at 212-610-0507.

About Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common breathing disorder that causes a person to stop breathing for short periods while sleeping. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This means that the airway becomes completely blocked during sleep, so no air can get through. OSA can cause serious problems when you have surgery. Please tell us if you have sleep apnea or if you think you might have it. If you use a breathing machine (CPAP) for sleep apnea, bring it with you the day of your surgery.

Within 30 Days of Your Surgery

Presurgical Testing (PST)

Before your surgery, you will have an appointment for presurgical testing (PST). The date, time, and location of your PST appointment will be printed on the appointment reminder from your surgeon’s office.

You can eat and take your usual medications the day of your PST appointment. During your appointment, you will meet with a nurse practitioner who works closely with anesthesiology staff (doctors and specialized nurses who will be giving you medication to put you to sleep during your surgery). He or she will review your medical and surgical history with you. You will have tests, including an electrocardiogram (EKG) to check your heart rhythm, a chest x-ray, blood tests, and any other tests necessary to plan your care. Your nurse practitioner may also recommend you see other healthcare providers.

Your nurse practitioner will talk with you about which medications you should take the morning of your surgery. To help you remember, we’ve left space for you to write these medications down in the “Morning of Your Surgery” section of this guide. It is very helpful if you bring the following with you to your PST appointment:

  • A list of all the medications you are taking, including patches and creams.
  • Results of any tests done outside of MSK, such as a cardiac stress test, echocardiogram, or carotid doppler study.
  • The name(s) and telephone number(s) of your doctor(s).

Health Care Proxy

If you haven’t already completed a Health Care Proxy Form, we recommend you complete one now. A health care proxy is a legal document that identifies the person who will speak for you if you are unable to communicate for yourself. This person is known as your health care agent. If you are interested in completing a Health Care Proxy Form, talk with your nurse. If you have completed one already, or if you have any other advanced directive, bring it with you to your next appointment.

Breathing and Coughing Exercises

Practice taking deep breaths and coughing before your surgery. You will be given an incentive spirometer, either before or after your surgery, to help expand your lungs. For more information, please read How to Use Your Incentive Spirometer, located in the “After Your Surgery” section of this guide. If you have any questions, ask your nurse or respiratory therapist.


Try to do aerobic exercise every day, such as walking at least 1 mile, swimming, or biking. If it is cold outside, use stairs in your home or go to a mall or shopping market. Walking will help your body get into its best condition for your surgery and make your recovery faster and easier.

Eat a Healthy Diet

You should eat a well-balanced, healthy diet before your surgery. If you need help with your diet talk to your doctor or nurse about meeting with a dietitian.

10 Days Before Your Surgery

Review Your Medications

Stop taking medications that contain aspirin or vitamin E 10 days before your surgery or as directed by your doctor. If you take aspirin because you’ve had a problem with your heart or you’ve had a stroke, talk with your doctor before you stop taking it. He or she will tell you whether or not you should stop. If your cardiologist feels you need to remain on aspirin, liver surgery can be performed safely while you continue to take this medication. For information about medications containing aspirin, read Common Medications Containing Aspirin and Other Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), located in this section.

Purchase Hibiclens® Skin Cleanser

Figure 2. Hibiclens skin cleanser

Hibiclens is a skin cleanser that kills germs for 6 hours after using it. Showering with Hibiclens before surgery will help reduce your risk of infection after surgery. Hibiclens is available at your local pharmacy without a prescription.

Purchase Clear Liquids

Purchase clear liquids to drink the day before your surgery. For a list of clear liquids that you can drink, please see the table in this section.

Purchase Supplies for Bowel Preparation, If Needed

If you need to do a bowel preparation before your surgery, your nurse will tell you how. Use the area below to check off and write in any supplies you’ll need.

Magnesium citrate bowel preparation
  • 1 (10-ounce) bottle of magnesium citrate
MiraLAX® bowel preparation
  • 1 (5 mg) tablet of bisacodyl (Dulcolax®). These are usually sold as a box of 10 tablets.
  • 1 (238 gram) bottle of polyethylene glycol (MiraLAX)
  • 1 (64-ounce) bottle of a clear liquid

7 Days Before Your Surgery


Stop taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (e.g., Advil®, Motrin®) or naproxen (e.g., Aleve®). These medications can cause bleeding. For more information, please readCommon Medications Containing Aspirin and Other Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), located in this section.

Herbal Remedies

If you take a multivitamin, talk with your doctor or nurse about whether you should continue. Stop taking herbal remedies or supplements. For more information, please read Herbal Remedies and Cancer Treatment, located in this section.

Watch a Virtual Tour

This video will give you an idea of what to expect when you come to Memorial Sloan Kettering’s main hospital on the day of your surgery.

1 Day Before Your Surgery

Note the Time of Your Surgery

A clerk from the Admitting Office will call you after 2:00 pm the day before your surgery. He or she will tell you what time you should arrive at the hospital for your surgery. If you are scheduled for surgery on a Monday, you will be called on the Friday before. If you do not receive a call by 7:00 pm, please call 212-639-5014.

MSK Presurgical Center (PSC)
1275 York Avenue (between East 67th and East 68th Streets) New York, NY
B elevator to 6th floor

Begin a Clear Liquid Diet

You will need to follow a clear liquid diet the day before your surgery. A clear liquid diet includes only liquids you can see through. Examples are listed in the table below. You cannot eat any solid foods while on a clear liquid diet.

Clear Liquid Diet



Do Not Drink


  • Clear broth or bouillon

  • Clear consommé

  • Clear packaged vegetable, chicken, or beef broth

  • Any products with particles of dried food or seasoning

Sweets and Desserts

  • Gelatin, such as Jell-O®

  • Flavored ices

  • Hard candies, such as Lifesavers®

  • All others


  • Clear fruit juices, such as cranberry, grape, or apple

  • Soda, such as 7-Up®, Sprite®, ginger ale, seltzer, Gatorade®

  • Black coffee

  • Tea

  • Juices with pulp

  • Nectars

  • Milk (or cream)

  • Alcoholic beverages

Start Bowel Preparation, If Needed

If your doctor or nurse told you that you needed to do a bowel preparation, you will need to start it 1 day before your surgery. For both the magnesium citrate and MiraLAX bowel preparations, you will need to follow a clear liquid diet the day before your surgery. Examples of clear liquids are listed in the table above. Make sure to drink plenty of liquids other than water, coffee, and tea. Try to drink at least one 8-ounce glass every hour while you’re awake.

  • Magnesium citrate bowel preparation
    • At 2:00 pm on the day before your surgery, drink the magnesium citrate.
  • MiraLAX bowel preparation
    • On the morning before your surgery, mix all 238 grams of MiraLAX with the 64 ounces of clear liquid until the MiraLAX powder dissolves. Once the MiraLAX is dissolved, you can put the mixture in the refrigerator, if you prefer.
Take your MiraLAX bowel preparation

The MiraLAX bowel preparation will cause frequent bowel movements, so be sure to be near a bathroom the evening before your surgery or procedure.

At 3:00 pm on the day before your surgery, take 1 bisacodyl tablet by mouth with a glass of water.

At 5:00 pm on the day before your surgery, start drinking the MiraLAX bowel preparation.

Drink an 8-ounce glass of the mixture every 15 minutes until the container is empty.

  • Apply petroleum jelly (Vaseline®) or A & D® ointment to the skin around your anus after every bowel movement. This helps prevent irritation.
  • Drink 4 to 6 glasses of clear liquids after you finish the MiraLAX. You may continue to drink clear liquids until midnight, but it is not required.

Shower with Hibiclens

The night before your surgery, shower using the Hibiclens solution. To use Hibiclens, open the bottle and pour some solution into your hand or a washcloth. Rub it gently over your body from your neck to your waist and rinse. Do not use any other soap. Do not let the solution get into your eyes, ears, mouth, or genital area. Dry yourself off with a clean towel after your shower.


Go to bed early and get a full night’s sleep.

Morning of Your Surgery

Between midnight and up until 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time, you may drink a total of 12 ounces of clear liquids (see Figure 3). 

Figure 3. 12 ounces of clear liquid

Examples of clear liquids include:

  • Clear broth, bouillon, or consommé (no particles of dried food or seasonings) 
  • Gelatin, such as Jell-O® 
  • Clear fruit juices (no pulp), such as white cranberry, white grape, or apple 
  • Soda, such as 7-Up®, Sprite®, ginger ale, seltzer, or Gatorade® 
  • Coffee or tea, without milk or cream 

Shower with Hibiclens

Shower using Hibiclens just before you leave for the hospital. Use the Hibiclens the same way you did the night before. Do not use any other soap. Do not put on any lotion, cream, powder, deodorant, makeup, or perfume after your shower.

Take Your Medications

If your doctor or nurse practitioner instructed you to take certain medications the morning of your surgery, take only those medications with a sip of water. Depending on what medications you take and the surgery you’re having, this may be all, some, or none of your usual morning medications.

Things to Remember

  • Do not put on any lotions, creams, deodorants, makeup, powders, or perfumes.
  • Do not wear any metal objects. Remove all jewelry, including body piercings. The equipment used during your surgery can cause burns if it touches metal.
  • Leave valuables, such as credit cards, jewelry, or your checkbook at home.
  • Before you are taken into the operating room, you will need to remove your hearing aids, dentures, prosthetic device(s), wig, and religious articles (such as a rosary).
  • Wear something comfortable and loose-fitting.
  • If you wear contact lenses, wear your glasses instead.

  • Your breathing machine for sleep apnea (such as your CPAP), if you have one.
  • A portable music player, if you choose. However, someone will need to hold these items for you when you go into surgery.
  • Your incentive spirometer, if you have one.
  • Your Health Care Proxy Form, if you have completed one. ȗ Your cell phone and charger.
  • Your toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Your denture cleaner, if you have one.
  • This guide. Your healthcare team will use this guide to teach you how to care for yourself after your surgery.

Parking When you Arrive

Parking at MSK is available in the garage on East 66th Street between York and First Avenues. To reach the garage, turn onto East 66th Street from York Avenue. The garage is located about a quarter of a block in from York Avenue, on the right-hand (north) side of the street. There is a pedestrian tunnel that you can walk through that connects the garage to the hospital. If you have questions about prices, call 212-639-2338.

There are also other garages located on East 69th Street between First and Second Avenues, East 67th Street between York and First Avenues, and East 65th Street between First and Second Avenues.

Once You’re in the Hospital

You will be asked to state and spell your name and date of birth many times. This is for your safety. Patients with the same or similar names may be having surgery on the same day.

Tell your nurse about medications you’ve taken

A nurse will meet with you before your surgery. Tell him or her the dose of any medications (including patches and creams) you took after midnight and the time you took them.

Get dressed for your surgery

You will be given a hospital gown, robe, and nonskid socks.

Meet With Your Anesthesiologist

He or she will:

  • Review your medical history with you.
  • Talk with you about your comfort and safety during your surgery.
  • Talk with you about the kind of anesthesia you will receive.
  • Answer any questions you may have about your anesthesia.
Prepare for your surgery

Once your nurse has seen you, 1 or 2 visitors can keep you company as you wait for your surgery to begin. When it is time for your surgery, your visitor(s) will be shown to the waiting area. Your visitors should read Information for Family and Friends for the Day of Surgery, located in this section.

You will walk into the operating room or you can be taken in on a stretcher. A member of the operating room team will help you onto the operating bed. Compression boots will be placed on your lower legs. These gently inflate and deflate to help circulation in your legs.

Your anesthesiologist will place an intravenous (IV) line into a vein, usually in your arm or hand. The IV line will be used to give you fluids and anesthesia (medication to make you sleep) during your surgery.

Your anesthesiologist may also put an epidural catheter (thin, flexible tube) in your spine (back). This will be used to give you pain medication. The medication is delivered into your epidural space, which is the area just outside your spinal cord. It will give you pain relief with fewer side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and sleepiness. This is similar to what is given to women when they have babies.

Once you are fully asleep, a breathing tube will be placed through your mouth and into your windpipe to help you breathe. You will also have a urinary catheter placed to drain urine from your bladder.

Once your surgery is finished, your incision will be closed with staples or with stitches that will absorb as you are healing. Steri-Strips™ (thin pieces of tape) will be placed directly on your incision and covered with a bandage. Your breathing tube is usually taken out while you are still in the operating room.

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After Your Surgery

The information in this section will tell you what to expect after your surgery, both during your hospital stay and after you leave the hospital. You will learn how to safely recover from your surgery. Write down any questions you have and be sure to ask your doctor or nurse.

What to Expect

When you wake up after your surgery, you will be in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU).

You will receive oxygen through a thin tube that rests below your nose called a nasal cannula. A nurse will be monitoring your body temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and oxygen levels.

You may have a urinary catheter (Foley®) in your bladder to monitor the amount of urine you are making. You will also have compression boots on your lower legs to help your circulation.

You may have a pain pump called a patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) device. For more information, please read Patient-Controlled Analgesia (PCA), located in this section. If you do not have an epidural catheter, your pain medication will be given through an IV line.

Your visitors can see you briefly in the PACU, usually within 90 minutes after you arrive there. A member of the nursing staff will explain the guidelines to them.

Depending on the type of surgery you had, you may stay in the PACU overnight. After your stay in the PACU, you will be taken to your hospital room. Soon after you arrive in your room, you will be helped out of bed and into a chair. Your nurse will tell you how to recover from your surgery. Below are examples of ways you can help yourself recover safely.

  • You will be encouraged to walk with the help of your nurse or physical therapist. We will give you medication to relieve pain. Walking helps reduce the risk for blood clots and pneumonia. It also helps to stimulate your bowels so they begin working again.
  • You will not be allowed to eat for the first day or two. Then, you will be given clear liquids. After that, your diet will progress to a regular diet as tolerated. As soon as you are eating and showing no signs of complications, you will be ready to go home.
  • Use your incentive spirometer. This will help your lungs expand, which prevents pneumonia. For more information, please read How to Use Your Incentive Spirometer, located in this section.
  • Continue to perform your breathing and coughing exercises every 1 to 2 hours while you are awake.
  • Your nurse will teach you to splint your incision. This will reduce the movement of your stomach muscles and decrease pain while you do the coughing exercises.

Commonly Asked Questions: During Your Hospital Stay

The following section covers common questions patients ask after having liver surgery. Speak with your doctor or nurse if you have any additional questions or if any of this information is unclear.

Will I have pain after my surgery?

Yes, you will have pain after your surgery, especially in the first few days. Your doctor and nurse will ask you about your pain often. You will be given medication to manage your pain as needed. If your pain is not relieved, please tell your doctor or nurse. It is important to control your pain so you can cough, breathe deeply, use your incentive spirometer, and get out of bed and walk.

Why is it important to walk?

Walking will help prevent blood clots in your legs. It also decreases your risk of having other complications such as pneumonia.

Will I be able to eat?

You will not be allowed to eat for the first day or 2 following the surgery. Then you will be on a clear liquid diet. After that, your diet will progress to a regular diet as tolerated.

Eating a balanced diet high in protein will help you heal after surgery. Your diet should include a healthy protein source at each meal, as well as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. For more tips on increasing the amount of calories and protein in your diet, ask your nurse for the resource Eating Well During and After Your Cancer Treatment. If you have questions about your diet, ask to see a dietitian.

How long will I be in the hospital?

Most patients are in the hospital for 5 to 7 days after having a liver resection or ablation but this will depend on the exact surgery that is done.

Commonly Asked Questions: After You Leave the Hospital

Will I have pain when I am home?

The length of time each patient has pain or discomfort varies. You may still have some pain when you go home and will probably be taking pain medication. Follow the guidelines below.

  • Call your doctor if the medication prescribed for you doesn’t relieve your pain.
  • Take your medications as directed and as needed.
  • Do not drive or drink alcohol while you are taking prescription pain medication.
  • As your incision heals, you will have less pain and need less pain medication. A mild pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) will relieve aches and discomfort. However, large quantities of acetaminophen may be harmful to your liver. Do not take more acetaminophen than the amount directed on the bottle or as instructed by your doctor or nurse.
  • Pain medication should help you as you resume your normal activities. Take enough medication to do your exercises comfortably. Pain medication is most effective 30 to 45 minutes after taking it.
  • Keep track of when you take your pain medication. Taking it when your pain first begins is more effective than waiting for the pain to get worse.

Can I shower?

Yes, taking a warm shower is relaxing and can help decrease muscle aches. Use soap when you shower and gently wash your incision. Pat the areas dry with a towel after showering, and leave your incision uncovered (unless there is drainage). Call your doctor if you see any redness or drainage from your incision.

Do not take tub baths until you discuss it with your doctor at the first appointment after your surgery.

Is it normal not to feel hungry after surgery?

It is common to have a decreased appetite after surgery. Try eating several smaller meals that have each of the food groups (i.e., fruits/vegetables, meat/chicken/fish, breads/grains, dairy products). This will help you heal faster.

In addition to not being hungry, you may also not be able to taste things the way you did before your surgery. This will improve with time.

How can I prevent constipation?

Your usual bowel pattern will change after surgery. You may have trouble passing stool (feces). This is a common side effect of pain medication. Please review the material your nurse gave you about fiber and constipation.

To avoid constipation, take a stool softener such as docusate sodium (Colace®) 3 times a day and 2 tablets of senna (a laxative) at bedtime. Continue taking the stool softener and laxative until you are no longer taking pain medication. Drink plenty of liquids. If you feel bloated avoid foods that can cause gas, such as beans, broccoli, onions, cabbage, and cauliflower.

Can I drink alcohol after surgery?

Alcohol is cleared out of the body through the liver. Do not drink alcohol until you check with your doctor or nurse.

How do I care for my incision?

The location of your incision will depend on the type of surgery you had. It is normal to have numbness of the skin below the incision because some of the nerves were cut; this sensation will lessen over time.

  • By the time you are ready to leave the hospital, your surgical incision will have begun to heal.
  • You and your caregiver should look at your incision with your nurse before you leave the hospital so you know what it looks like.
  • If any liquid is draining from your incision, you should write down the amount and color. Call your doctor’s office and speak with the nurse about any drainage from your incision.

Change your bandages at least once a day and more often if they become wet with drainage. When there is no longer any drainage coming from your incision, they can be left uncovered.

If you go home with Steri-Strips on your incision, they will loosen and fall off by themselves. If they haven’t fallen off within 10 days, you may remove them.

If you go home with glue over your sutures (stitches), it will also loosen and peel off, similarly to the Steri-Strips.

Is it normal to feel tired after surgery?

Feeling tired (fatigue) is the most common complaint after liver resection or ablation. It is an expected side effect. You may need a nap during the day, but try to stay out of bed as much as possible. That will help you sleep at night. It usually takes 6 to 8 weeks until your energy level returns to normal.

Can I resume my activities?

It is important for you to resume your activities after surgery. Spread them out over the course of the day. You can do light household tasks. Try washing dishes, preparing light meals, and other activities as you are able.

You may experience swelling in both of your lower legs following surgery. This will get better with time. If you feel that the swelling is getting worse while you are home and is interfering with your activities please call your doctor and let him or her know.

You may return to your usual sexual activity as soon as your incision are well healed and you can do so without pain or fatigue.

Your body is an excellent guide for telling you when you have done too much. When you increase your activity, monitor your body’s reaction. You may find that you have more energy in the morning or the afternoon. Plan your activities for times of the day when you have more energy.

When is it safe for me to drive?

You may resume driving 3 weeks after surgery as long as you are not taking pain medication that may make you drowsy.

When can I return to work?

The time it takes to return to work depends on the type of work you do, the type of surgery you had, and how fast your body heals.

What exercises can I do?

Exercise will help you gain strength and feel better. Walking and stair climbing are excellent forms of exercise. Gradually increase the distance you walk. Climb stairs slowly, resting or stopping as needed. Ask your doctor or nurse before starting more strenuous exercises.

When can I lift heavy objects?

Check with your doctor before you do any heavy lifting. Normally, you should not lift anything heavier than 5 pounds for at least 6 weeks. Ask your doctor how long you should avoid heavy lifting.

How can I cope with my feelings?

After surgery for a serious illness, you may have new and upsetting feelings. Many people say they felt weepy, sad, worried, nervous, irritable, and angry at one time or another. You may find that you cannot control some of these feelings. If this happens, it’s a good idea to seek emotional support.

The first step in coping is to talk about how you feel. Family and friends can help. Your nurse, doctor, and social worker can reassure, support, and guide you. It is always a good idea to let these professionals know how you, your family, and your friends are feeling emotionally. Many resources are available to patients and their families. Whether you are in the hospital or at home, the nurses, doctors, and social workers are here to help you and your family and friends handle the emotional aspects of your illness.

When is my first appointment after my surgery?

Your first appointment after surgery will be in 1 to 3 weeks after you leave the hospital. Your nurse will give you instructions on how to make this appointment, including the phone number to call. During this appointment, your doctor will discuss the pathology results with you in detail.

  • A temperature of 101° F (38.3° C) or higher
  • Pain that does not get better with your medications
  • Redness, swelling, or drainage from your incision that is foul smelling or pus-like
  • No bowel movement for 3 days or longer
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes)
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation that does not get better in 2 to 3 days
  • Any new symptom or physical change
  • Any questions or concerns

After 5:00 pm, during the weekend, and on holidays, call 212-639-2000. Ask to speak to the doctor on call for your surgeon.

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This section contains a list of MSK support services, as well as the resources that were referred to throughout this guide. These resources will help you prepare for your surgery and recover safely. Write down any questions you have and be sure to ask your doctor or nurse.

MSK Support Services

The following are MSK resources that you may find helpful.

Call the Admitting office to discuss private room or luxury suite options. If you want to change your room choice after your Presurgical Testing visit, call 212-639-7873 or 212-639-7874.
Call with questions about anesthesia, the medications used to make you sleepy for your surgery.
Blood Donor Room
If you are interested in donating blood or platelets, call for more information.
Bobst International Center

MSK welcomes patients from around the world. If you are an international patient, call the International Center for help coordinating your care.

Chaplaincy Service
At MSK, our chaplains are available to listen, help support family members, pray, contact community clergy or faith groups, or simply be a comforting companion and a spiritual presence. Anyone can request spiritual support, regardless of formal religious affiliation. The interfaith chapel is located near the main lobby of Memorial Hospital, and is open 24 hours a day. If you have an emergency, please call the hospital operator and ask for the chaplain on call.
Counseling Services
Many people find counseling helpful. We provide counseling for individuals, couples, families, and groups, as well as medications to help if you feel anxious or depressed.
Integrative Medicine Service
Integrative Medicine Service offers patients many services to complement traditional medical care, including music therapy, mind/body therapies, dance and movement therapy, yoga, and touch therapy.
Patient-to-Patient Support Program
You may find it comforting to speak with a cancer survivor or caregiver who has been through a similar treatment. Through our Patient-to-Patient Support Program, we are able to offer you a chance to speak with former patients and caregivers.
Patient Billing
Call Patient Billing with any questions regarding preauthorization with your insurance company. This is also called preapproval.
Patient Representatives
Call the Patient Representatives office if you have any questions about the Health Care Proxy Form or if you have any concerns about your care.
Perioperative Clinical Nurse Specialist
If you have any questions about MSK releasing any information while you are having surgery, call the clinical nurse specialist.
Private Nursing Options
Patients may request private nurses or companions. For more information, call the Private Duty Nursing Office.
Resources for Life After Cancer (RLAC) Program
At MSK, care doesn’t end after active treatment. The RLAC Program is for patients and their families who have finished treatment. This program has many services, including seminars, workshops, support groups, counseling on life after treatment, and help with insurance and employment issues.
Social Work
Social workers help patients, family, and friends deal with issues that are common for cancer patients. They provide counseling on getting used to a serious illness, advice on how to communicate with family, friends, and young children, and help with employment issues.
Tobacco Treatment Program
If you want to quit smoking, MSK has specialists who can help. Call for more information.

External Resources

The following are resources outside of MSK that you may find helpful:

American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute

For additional online information, visit LIBGUIDES on MSK’s library website at http://library.mskcc.org or the Liver Cancer section of MSKCC.org. You can also contact the library reference staff at 212-639-7439 for help.

Additional Resources

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