Find answers to your questions about living liver donation

Living Liver Donation: Your 5 Biggest Questions Answered

Becoming a living liver donor is a big step, and it’s perfectly normal to have questions and concerns before committing to the process. Here are some basic questions typically asked by potential living donors.

Living liver donation could save thousands of lives. Learn more in this article from Abhi Humar, MD, chief of transplantation surgery at UPMC.

1. Who Pays for Living Donor Surgery?

Your medical expenses, including the transplant evaluation, transplant surgery, and follow-up appointments, are all covered by the recipient’s insurance.

However, the recipient’s insurance likely won’t cover additional expenses you incur, including:

  • Transportation and travel expenses
  • Lodging for you and your family
  • Childcare
  • Lost wages

Many donors explore fundraising options to help offset these costs. However, you should keep in mind that it’s illegal for living donors to receive payment for their donation.

2. Will I Have to Take Time Off Work?

Yes, both before and after the surgery, so be sure to talk with your employer. To determine if you qualify as a donor, you will undergo a three-day transplant evaluation. The amount of time you’ll need to take off from work after surgery will depend on your job. Most donors return to work within six to eight weeks. If, however, your job requires heavy lifting or stretching, you will need to be off work for 12 weeks.

3. Will My Recipient Know I’m a Match?

Your decision to become a living donor is entirely voluntary and will be kept confidential. The transplant team won’t notify the recipient when you’re evaluated or if you’re a match. You can decide how and when to share this news.

You may decide at any time to postpone or cancel the surgery, and your decision will be kept private, according to United Network for Organ Sharing. It’s very important that you never feel pressured to donate.

Learn more about living-donor liver transplant at UPMC. 

4. What Are the Risks Involved in Living Donor Surgery?

As with all surgeries, there are certain risks associated with living donor surgery. However, living donors are carefully evaluated and monitored throughout the process. Possible risks of living donor surgery may include:

  • Bile leakage
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Development of a hernia

5. How Will My Life Change After Surgery?

The recovery process is different for everyone, but you should be able to return to your normal life within a few weeks. In fact, most donors can shower, dress, and do simple daily activities once they leave the hospital.

You won’t need to take any medicines after surgery, but you should follow a healthy diet — avoid fried foods and foods with lots of cheese or cream. You also should drink plenty of water to help your body heal and prevent constipation.

And remember — your liver will regenerate within two to three months after surgery.

Living donor transplant wouldn’t be possible without the selfless acts of living donors. Your questions and concerns are important, and the UPMC Living Donor Transplant team is here to help. If you have other questions about becoming a living donor, please visit UPMC Transplant Services.