Get answers to common questions with Vascular Surgeon Natalie Sridharan

Richard and Laura were two of the more than 14,000 people waiting for a life-saving liver transplant in the United States. Each day spent on the waiting list is crucial. The average wait time for a deceased-donor liver transplant is more than five years.

Richard and Laura choose another option — living-donor liver exchange. As a result, each received the best possible livers from the most compatible donors.

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What Is a Living-Donor Liver Exchange?

A living-donor liver exchange begins with a patient who has end-stage liver disease and has identified a potential living donor. But the donor is not a suitable match.

When that happens, that potential donor can become a living donor for someone else on the waiting list — if they meet the requirements and are healthy enough to become a living donor.

If the donor agrees to take part in an exchange, they will “swap” recipients with another living donor who is a more compatible match. This process is known as a “paired exchange.”

Benefits of a Living-Donor Liver Exchange?

While recovery times and outcomes may vary, patients who receive a living-donor liver transplant often undergo surgery when they are healthier. That can result in improved outcomes and a faster recovery.

Benefits of living-donor liver exchange include:

  • Incompatibility is not an obstacle — living donors of any blood type can help save the life of a friend or loved one by taking part in an organ swap.
  • Recipients receive the best medical match — through a living-donor exchange, transplant recipients are paired with the donor who is their best medical match.

What Is a Donor Chain?

In a donor chain, even more people can receive a life-saving transplant. This process starts with a non-directed donor. In Richard and Laura’s case, Dave was the non-directed donor.

Dave became a living donor for Richard. In turn, Richard’s niece, Taylor, became a living donor for Laura because she was not a match for Richard. This allowed both Richard and Laura to receive the life-saving transplants they had been waiting for.

Who Is a Candidate for a Living-Donor Liver Exchange at UPMC?

When searching for a living donor, we recommend appointing a Living Donor Champion to oversee the search process. Potential living donors will be carefully screened through a living donor evaluation process. Potential living donors must:

  • Be between the ages of 18 and 55.
  • Be in good physical and mental health.
  • Have a BMI less than or equal to 32.
  • Have no history of drug or substance abuse.
  • Have no history of pulmonary hypertension, HIV, liver disease (cirrhosis or hepatitis), active cancers, or other significant diseases.

To start the process, visit our website.

About Transplant Services

For more than four decades, UPMC Transplant Services has been a leader in organ transplantation. Our clinicians have performed more than 20,000 organ transplant procedures, making UPMC one of the foremost organ transplant centers in the world. We are home to some of the world’s foremost transplant experts and take on some of the most challenging cases. Through research, we have developed new therapies that provide our patients better outcomes — so organ recipients can enjoy better health with fewer restrictions. Above all, we are committed to providing compassionate, complete care that can change – and save – our patients’ lives. Visit our website to find a provider near you.