After undergoing an organ transplant, patients may find their appetite revived significantly, mainly because of an improvement in their general well-being and quality of life. But eating indiscriminately or overeating can lead to excessive weight gain, putting stress on the new organ, be it a new liver or kidney.

For that reason, post-transplant patients need to have their diet and weight monitored closely. They need to consume adequate nutrients to build up their strength and recover well, and most times, they also need to watch their sodium intake.

Since the Transplant Centre was opened at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), it has become easier for dietitians to monitor the health of their patients. The centre for liver, kidney and corneal transplants puts under one roof the various disciplines involved in the transplant process, including transplant surgeons, physiotherapists, pharmacists and transplant coordinators.

Having all the experts in the same clinic also makes for greater flexibility in seeing patients, leading to a shorter wait for patients. Dietitians are able to see their patients on the same day and in the same place. Said Ms Tan Sheau Kang, Dietitian, Department of Dietetics, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group, “We can see from the computer system who the patient has seen, and whether the patient is in a consultation room with the doctor or pharmacist.

“If the patient is in the waiting area, and we are available to attend to the patient, we will call for the patient to see the dietitian first. This saves time for both the patient and our staff.”

Good eating habits may mean earlier recovery

A session with the dietitian can take between 30 minutes to an hour. During this time, dietitians do a number of things, such as assessing the patient’s body mass index, fat and muscle mass, reviewing blood test results, obtaining his diet history, assessing energy and nutrient intake, designing or adjusting the diet plan, and thoroughly explaining the diet he should adopt.

Nutrition plays a crucial role in the health care plan of transplant patients as studies have shown that patients who are better nourished, recover better and more quickly from transplant surgery.

“Patients with better nutrition tend to have a lower risk of infection, their wounds heal more quickly, and they tend to be discharged earlier,” said Ms Cherry Li, Senior Dietitian, Department of Dietetics, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

For that reason, the patient’s diet and eating habits are followed closely at every stage of his transplant. “We see patients at all stages – pre-transplant, when we boost their nutrition in preparation for surgery; recovery stage or immediately after the procedure; and post-transplant, which is about long-term care,” said Ms Tan.

She works with renal transplant patients, while Ms Li looks after liver transplant patients. The nutritional needs of kidney and liver transplant patients are different, as are the nutritional needs and goals at different stages of the transplant.

Learn more about the diet needs of patients before and after transplant surgery.

Ref. Q15