The 12-hour multi-organ transplant was completed at Melbourne's Austin Hospital early on Saturday morning.
Brendan Cole, 32, had been suffered worsening intestinal failure since childhood and has endured more than 30 operations.
Surgeons replaced his small intestine, liver, pancreas and duodenum in an operation regarded as the most complex and risky of all transplant procedures.
Mr Cole is in a serious but stable condition in intensive care but doctors say it will be months before they know whether the transplant has been a success.
Head surgeon Professor Bob Jones says there is now a high risk of organ rejection and infection.
"The bowel has been really difficult to transplant. It's the last frontier of transplantation because the bowel is extremely sensitive," he said.
"You can have a fantastic operation and a fantastic recovery and then a month down the track get a nasty infection that could be potentially life-threatening.
"So Brendan won't really be out of the woods [yet]. We'll really relax in about three months."
Professor Jones says Mr Cole may have had only months to live before the high-risk surgery.
"Brendan probably had less than a year to live, probably six months, so ... it's lifesaving for him," he said.
"He spent the last 12 years of his life hooked to IV line and ... unable to eat.
"Once he's recovered, we can let him out of the hospital, he can go down to the grocery shop, buy some food, cook it and eat it.
"It'll have an extraordinary affect on his life."
Mr Cole says he is looking forward to getting married and living a normal life.
"This morning I tried to get the nursing staff to pinch me a few times cos I thought maybe something had gone wrong, but then everyone said 'oh no it went really really well'," he said.
"It's ridiculous to say it's probably been one of the best days of my life and it's only going to get better from here."
Mr Cole has thanked the doctors who saved his life.
"It's hard to explain how professional and how comfortable the team at the Austin have made me feel," he said.
"They're so dedicated. Much thanks goes to them - they are an amazing team."
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