Post Updated March, 2021
Imagine being able to positively change someone’s life forever —in fact, to save the life of a child in need.
As a pediatric living liver donor, you can do exactly that. Children who face life-threatening liver diseases and need a liver transplant only have two options: wait for a deceased donor organ or find a living donor.
With more than 500 children on the waiting list for a liver transplant, finding a deceased donor liver can take months or longer. Becoming a living liver donor can decrease the wait and provide a lifesaving solution for children on the liver transplant waiting list.
During a living donor liver transplant, a healthy adult can donate a portion of their liver. Typically, only about 25 percent of the liver is needed for the transplant, depending on the size of the child. Taking only a small amount of the liver helps to reduce risk and allows the donor to heal faster.
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The Living Donor Process
To be a liver donor for a child, you must undergo a series of evaluations and tests. These tests ensure you’re an appropriate match for a child on the waiting list and will confirm that you and the child can safely undergo the procedure.
The evaluation begins with a blood test to make sure your liver is healthy. Then, you will undergo:
- Blood and imaging tests
- Psychiatric consultations
- A financial clearance
In addition, there are some health-related requirements you need to meet before you can sign up. A pediatric living donor must:
- Be between the ages of 18 and 55
- Be in good physical and mental health
- Have a body mass index (BMI) of less than or equal to 32
- Not be engaged in active, ongoing drug or substance use
- Be willing to donate
- Have no history of liver disease, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, pulmonary hypertension, HIV, cancer, or diseases involving the lungs, kidneys, or heart
Once all testing is complete and it is determined that you can safely undergo a living donor transplant, you can be cleared and scheduled for surgery.
Learn how you can help. Visit the website for Living Donor Liver Transplant at UPMC.
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Recovery from Liver Transplant Surgery
While recovery is different for everyone, donors typically stay in the hospital for less than a week. Because your liver will regenerate and grow back, most donors can return to a normal and active life within a few months.
Benefits and Risks of Becoming a Liver Donor
Often, it’s one or both parents of a sick child who volunteer to become the living donor. Other potential donors can be siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, or someone unknown to the family who simply wants to help.
Benefits of being a donor
- As a living donor, you have the chance to save the life of a child with liver disease.
- Living donation increases the number of organs available for children on the waiting list.
- Living donation improves the long-term outcomes for the child, allowing for quicker recovery time.
- Because the surgery can be scheduled, a child on the waiting list can receive the transplant while they’re still relatively healthy.
Risks of liver donation
As with all types of surgery, living donor liver transplant can have some risks. If you have any concerns about your surgery, please contact your doctor immediately.
It takes a big heart to donate a small portion of your liver to a child. To learn if you may qualify to be a donor, visit UPMC Liver Transplant Services.
About Transplant Services
Established in 1981, UPMC Transplant Services is one of the foremost organ transplant centers in the world. Our clinicians have performed more than 20,000 organ transplant procedures, including liver, kidney, pancreas, single and double lung, heart, and more. We are home to some of the world’s foremost transplant experts and have a long history of developing new antirejection therapies—so organ recipients can enjoy better health with fewer restrictions.