Diet and physical activity after liver transplant: a qualitative study of barriers and facilitators to following advice

Lynsey Spillman, Arabella Melville-Claxton, Gillian Gatiss, Nicola Fernandez, Angela Madden

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Background: Liver transplant recipients are given diet and physical activity advice to aid recovery and promote long-term health. The present study aimed to explore patients’ experiences of receiving and implementing diet and physical activity advice after liver transplant and identify barriers and facilitators to following recommendations. Methods: A qualitative descriptive design included purposive sampling of 13 liver transplant recipients. Semi-structured audio-recorded interviews and inductive thematic analysis using a framework were undertaken concurrently to enable recruitment until saturation of themes occurred. Results: Overall experiences varied between participants and settings, as well as over time. Seven themes emerged, all representing both barriers and facilitators to implementing advice. Poor capability and loss of confidence were barriers that improved in hospital because healthcare professionals enabled participants to set and achieve goals but remained key barriers after discharge from hospital. The format and consistency of advice influenced participants’ confidence in the healthcare team. Social support helped participants to return to and implement advice, although social networks could also have a negative influence. Advice and modelling of behaviour from other transplant recipients were facilitators. Symptoms, side effects, comorbidities and the environment presented barriers and facilitators. The desire to return to normal and coping strategies were drivers of behaviours, which were also influenced by participants’ beliefs and values. Conclusions: The variation in experiences indicates a need for individually tailored advice that is consistent across the multidisciplinary team. Interventions for behaviour change that merit further investigation include goal setting, improving coping strategies, peer support and modifying the hospital and home environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)910-919
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics
Issue number5
Early online date1 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2021


  • Diet and activity after liver transplant
  • nutrition
  • exercise
  • diet
  • experience
  • liver transplant
  • physical activity


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