The liver filters your blood and removes waste products, including cells that are no longer useful. When the liver is too diseased or injured to function as it should, you may need a liver transplant.

Living donor-liver transplants can be life-saving for people with end-stage liver failure. During this operation, surgeons remove your diseased liver and replace it with a healthy liver from a living donor. While many donated livers come from deceased donors, living-donor liver transplant is a great option.

Can the Liver Regenerate?

Living-donor liver transplant is possible because the liver can grow back (regenerate). This means the donor’s liver will grow again and the recipient’s liver will also grow usually in eight to 12 weeks following surgery.

Living-Donor Liver Transplant Criteria for Recipients

If you have end stage liver disease, you may be eligible for a liver transplant. At the UPMC Liver Transplant Program, we consider each person referred to our program – even if other centers have said that you are not a candidate.

Before you can begin the liver transplant evaluation process, you must be free of:

  • Cancer outside the liver
  • Alcohol for at least six months
  • Substance abuse
  • Active infections
  • Disabling psychiatric conditions
  • Other diseases or conditions

Your doctor will talk with you about the potential benefits and risks of liver transplant for your health situation. If this surgery is right for you, your transplant team will make sure that you:

  • Know the risks of liver transplant.
  • Have people who can support you at home after your transplant.
  • Understand and can manage any costs associated with transplant surgery.

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Benefits of Living-Donor Liver Transplant

Many people who need a new liver must wait for a suitable donor. In fact, there are more than 11,000 people in the U.S. who are waiting for a liver transplant.

With a living-donor liver transplant, you will not have to wait as long. This means you can have your surgery — and get healthier — sooner than if you remain on the waiting list for a liver.

There is evidence that a living-donor transplant could be better for your health. A 2019 study in the Annals of Surgery compared outcomes of living-donor liver transplants and deceased-donor liver transplants at one hospital. The study found that living-donor liver transplant recipients had:

  • Better survival.
  • Reduced need for blood transfusions during surgery.
  • Shorter hospital stays.

Knowing who your donor is and when you will have your surgery can also help you plan. You will have time to put a support system in place to help you care for yourself after surgery.

Does My Donor Need to Be a Family Member?

Your liver donor does not need to be a family member. But you cannot receive a liver donation from just anybody. Your donor must meet certain criteria.

What Are the Living-Donor Liver Transplant Criteria for Donors?

The person who donates part of their liver to you must be a healthy adult between the ages of 18 and 55. They also cannot use drugs, have any liver diseases or infections, or have a BMI less than or equal to 32.

Your living-liver donor needs to be a good match for you. Your doctor may use the term “medically compatible.” According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, experts will do tests to confirm:

  • That your blood types (O, A, B, or AB) either match or work well together. If your donor has type O blood, their blood is automatically compatible no matter what your blood type is.
  • That there are not certain antibodies (immune system proteins) in your blood that might make your body fight (reject) the new liver.
  • That your white blood cells match. This matching helps your body accept the new liver.

Doctors may also examine your donor’s heart, lungs, and liver function. Female donors may need to have a pelvic (gynecologic) exam.

Is Living-Donor Liver Transplant Right for Me?

Talk with your doctor about whether living-donor liver transplant is right for you. It is important to understand the potential risks and benefits of liver transplant based on your health, age, and lifestyle.

Sources

American Liver Foundation, Living-Donor Liver Transplant, https://liverfoundation.org/living-donor-liver-transplant-an-introduction/

United Network for Organ Sharing, Living Donation, https://unos.org/transplant/living-donation/

Donate Life America, Liver Donation, https://www.donatelife.net/types-of-donation/liver-donation/

University of Rochester, Living-Donor Liver Transplantation,https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/MediaLibraries/URMCMedia/transplant/documents/living-donor-liver-transplantation.pdf

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.