Liver transplant surgery: Taking medications and looking after your PICC line/CVL

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Going home after your transplant is an exciting part of your transplant journey. However, you will want to make sure that you know exactly how to take care of your new liver transplant properly when you go home.

Before you go home from the hospital, you will want to know:

  • what your medications are called
  • when to take them
  • how to take them (for example with food or on an empty stomach)
  • what your medications do
  • what side effects your medications have
  • any special precautions you must take
  • what to do if you vomit after taking your medications
  • how to store your medications
  • how to get a new prescription.

Some hospitals will have you practise preparing your own medications so that you can follow the same routine when you go home. Preparing your own medications with the help of a nurse can be the best way to get familiar with them.

You will also want to have a written schedule that shows you when to take your medications. You can use one of two templates – horizontal or vertical – to create your own medication schedule at home.

There are lots of other things to learn as you prepare to go home after your transplant. 

Checking before taking any medicines not prescribed by your team

Many medicines can interact with your immunosuppressant (anti-rejection) medications. Some may cause more side effects and others could lead to a rejection.

Always talk with your transplant nurse or physician before you take any over-the-counter medicines, natural (herbal) medicines or medicines that are prescribed to you by a doctor outside your transplant team. A doctor, nurse or pharmacist who specializes in transplants will know best how your medications will work together.


Check with your transplant nurse before getting any immunizations (vaccines). Never get a live vaccine (for example chicken pox or measles, mumps, rubella) after transplant; your body’s immune system may not be strong enough to kill the virus in the vaccine. This could lead to an infection.

Don’t get any vaccines for the first six months after your transplant. They will not work well because you will still be on high doses of immunosuppressants. After six months, you can keep your vaccinations up to date, except for live vaccines. You can get more information about vaccines in the medications and vaccines module.

Medic Alert

After your transplant, you should order a Medic Alert bracelet. This bracelet has information about your transplant and any allergies you have. Once you get the bracelet, wear it all the time, as it will help you get the right treatment if you ever need medical help in an emergency. A nurse on the transplant team can help you fill in the Medic Alert orde​r form​.

IV line (CVL or PICC)

You may have a peripherally-inserted central catheter (PICC) or a central venous line (CVL) for a few months after your transplant. The line provides an easy way for your transplant team to take blood and give you medications.

Keeping your IV line dry

You must keep the dressing for your PICC or CVL dry. While showering, cover it with something waterproof such as plastic wrap or a plastic bag and use a hand-held showering unit so you can point the spray away from that area of your body. You will also have to avoid swimming while the line is in place.

Changes to dressings and caps and flushing the line

Your dressing and caps will be changed once a week. Your PICC or CVL will also need to be flushed (cleaned) regularly. This will either be done at home by a nurse or at the hospital. If the dressing is dirty or loose, you should arrange to change it sooner.

IV line problems and fevers

If your PICC or CVL cracks, breaks or starts leaking please clamp it and dress it as described in your teaching. Tell your transplant team immediately so they can organize the repair.

If you have a fever while your line is in place, you must call your transplant team and go straight to the emergency department of your nearest hospital.

Last updated: November 30th 2017