Dr. Ganesh answers questions about living donor liver transplant at UPMC

Living Donor Liver Donation Q&A with Dr. Ganesh

On average, 1,500 people die each year waiting for a liver transplant.

As a result, living donor liver transplant has become a powerful, life-saving option. At times, it can be a confusing process. If you’re on the waiting list for a liver transplant or are thinking about donating, you will likely have questions.

We sat down with Swaytha Ganesh, MD, the medical director of UPMC’s Living Donor Program, to answer some of those questions.

RELATED: Life After Receiving a Liver Transplant 

For the Donor

Q: Do living donors have to be related to the recipient?

A: No. If you’re thinking of donating or if you’re looking for a living donor, it’s important to remember that donors don’t have to be related. Potential donors can be anyone who meets the appropriate qualifications and has an unselfish desire to help. Donors can include family members, friends, spouses, coworkers, and neighbors.

Find answers to questions on living donor liver transplant

Learn More About the Transplant Process. 

Q: Who can be a living liver donor?

A: Donor safety is very important. Potential donors will be carefully evaluated to make sure it’s safe for them to donate and confirm they are the best medical match for the recipient. A potential donor must:

  • Be between the ages of 18 to 54
  • Have a BMI less than or equal to 32
  • Not engage in ongoing drug or substance use
  • Be in good general health with no history of HIV, pulmonary hypertension, liver disease (including cirrhosis and hepatitis B or C), active cancers, or other significant diseases involving the lung, heart, or kidney.

Q: I have heard that the liver can regenerate. Is that true?

A: Yes. The liver has the unique ability to regenerate, or regrow, back to normal size within a few months after surgery. Because of this, living donation is a life-saving option for those needing a transplant.

Q: How much of my liver is removed?

A: The percentage of the liver that’s removed from the donor depends on the age and size of the person receiving the transplant. Typically, with adult-to-adult donation, about 50 to 60 percent of the liver is removed from the donor and transplanted into the recipient. If you’re donating to a child, about 25 percent of your liver is removed.

Q: Do I need to have the same blood type as the recipient to donate?

A: No. Having a compatible blood type is no longer required.

Q: How long does it take for a donor to recover from a transplant?

A: Once donors are discharged from the hospital, they typically return to their normal daily activities, including showering and getting dressed, within about one week. Most donors can return to work within six to 12 weeks; after three months, donors tend to be back to their pre-donation level of health. However, throughout the recovery process, you will return to the hospital for routine check-ups.

To register to be a living donor and save a life, please visit UPMC Transplant Services.

For the Recipient

Q: How do I know if I am eligible to receive a liver transplant?

A: At UPMC Transplant Services, you will go through a series of evaluations to determine if you’re a candidate for liver transplant. You will need to bring a caregiver with you to these evaluations. A caregiver can be any loved one who will provide support throughout the transplant experience.

For more information regarding liver transplant evaluations and what to expect as a potential recipient, please visit the UPMC Transplant Services website.

Q: If I was turned down from another center, will UPMC still evaluate me?

A: Even if you have been turned down by other centers, our experts will review you. While we can use results from testing at other transplant centers, we ask that you be reviewed by our doctors.

Q: Who is a part of UPMC Transplant Services? Will I have help and support as I go through the process?

A: The UPMC liver transplant team will guide and work with you every step of the way. The team consists of a:

  • Transplant nurse coordinator
  • Transplant surgeon
  • Living donor advocate
  • Transplant hepatologist
  • Transplant psychologist
  • Transplant social worker
  • Transplant nutritionist
  • Transplant pharmacist

Q: How often are follow-up appointments after liver transplant surgery?

A: Follow-up depends on your rate of recovery. To ensure the best outcome possible, most patients visit UPMC’s post-transplant clinic:

  • Once a week for the first month
  • Once every two weeks after two months
  • Once a month after six months

Your doctor will determine how often you’ll need to visit after nine months.

For more information about living donation, contact the UPMC Liver Transplant Program at 412-647-5800 or email transplant@upmc.edu.

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