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Traditional (Open) Liver Resection Surgery

Your team of doctors at the UPMC Liver Cancer Center may recommend traditional open liver surgery, depending on the size and location of the tumors.

What to Expect

About open liver resection

  • Surgeons make an incision across the right upper abdomen, below the ribcage, to remove the tumor.

Length of procedure

  • Three hours for most surgeries
  • Four to six hours for more complex surgeries on hard-to-reach or advanced tumors

Length of hospital stay

  • Four to five days

After Traditional (open) Liver Surgery

After liver surgery

  • A temporary drain may be placed in the abdomen — below your incision — to drain blood or leaking bile. Bile leaks occur in fewer than 10 percent of liver resections, and usually seal without further intervention. Most people have the drain removed before leaving the hospital.
  • Once you are awake and have stable vital signs, we will move you to the liver surgery floor — staffed by a team of specially trained medical professionals including:
    • Nurses
    • Physician assistants
    • Surgical fellows

Pain management

  • Pain may be controlled by either:
    • An epidural catheter placed by the anesthesiologist prior to the operation, or
    • A postoperative intravenous patient-controlled analgesia pump
  • Usually by the third day after surgery, you're able to control discomfort with oral pain medicine.

Follow-up care

  • Between 10 and 14 days after surgery, you will typically return for a follow-up visit where your surgeon will:
    • Examine the incision and have someone remove any surgical staples.
    • Evaluate your progress, taking into account your activity level, diet, and pain management.
    • Discuss long-term follow-up plans and any additional therapy.
  • About three months after surgery, you will usually have a CT scan to make sure that the tumor has not returned.