Does someone you love have end-stage liver disease? If so, this means that their liver has stopped functioning as it should.
A functioning liver plays an important role in keeping the body healthy. It helps filter your blood by removing waste products and cells that you no longer need.
For someone with end-stage liver disease, a liver transplant is often their only option for restoring health. If someone you care about needs a liver transplant, you may wonder: How can I help?
The Liver Foundation estimates that more than 11,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for a liver right now. Most donated livers come from deceased donors. But some people can get a new liver right away through living-donor liver transplant.
Living-liver donors give part of their liver to someone else. According to the Health Resources & Services Administration, four out of every 10 organ donations each year are from living donors. But deciding to become a living donor is a big decision.
Who Can Be a Living Liver Donor?
To donate part of your liver to someone, you must meet certain living donor liver transplant requirements. You must:
- Be a healthy adult between the ages of 18 and 55.
- Be free from cancer and infections (including HIV).
- Not be obese (your body mass index, or BMI, cannot be more than 32).
- Not have heart, kidney, or lung disease.
- Not use alcohol or other substances.
It’s also important that you’re in good mental health. You will need to understand the potential risks of liver donation surgery. These risks include:
- Bleeding or blood clots.
- Complications from anesthesia.
- Liver or bile duct problems.
- Scar tissue.
Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about these risks.
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How Does Living Donor Liver Transplant Work?
Living donor liver transplant is major surgery. During this operation, surgeons remove the diseased liver from the person who needs a new organ (recipient).
At the same time, different surgeons remove a piece of the donor’s healthy liver. Doctors then transplant the healthy liver into the recipient.
Can I Survive If I Give Away Part of My Liver?
Yes, a living-donor liver transplant is possible because the liver will grow back (regenerate).
If you are the donor, your liver grows again immediately and will return to its typical size in about eight to 12 weeks. The healthy piece of liver you donate will also grow inside the recipient during the weeks after surgery.
Can I Donate Part of My Liver to Just Anyone?
You do not have to be a person’s relative to donate part of your liver to them. But you and the recipient do have to meet certain living donor liver transplant criteria, including:
- Blood type compatibility. Doctors will test your blood and the recipient’s blood. Your blood types (O, A, B, or AB) must match or work well together. (For example, type O blood donors are an automatic match, and type A and type B donors can donate to someone with type AB blood.)
- Immune system compatibility. The recipient cannot have antibodies (immune system proteins) in their blood that might make their body fight the donor’s liver.
- Crossmatching. Doctors do a blood test that mixes your blood with the recipient’s blood. This helps doctors see if the recipient’s blood might attack the new liver and make them more likely to reject the organ.
What Are the Living Donor Liver Transplant Requirements for Recipients?
Liver transplant recipients must meet certain criteria to be eligible for a transplant from either a deceased donor or a living donor. These requirements include:
- Being a healthy weight.
- Not having cancer outside the liver.
- Not having any active infections (including HIV).
- Not using alcohol or other substances.
What Happens After Living Donor Liver Transplant Surgery?
After donating part of your liver, you will stay in the hospital for a while — usually about one week. Everybody is different, but for one or two months after surgery, a living donor might:
- Not be able to work.
- Not be able to lift heavy things.
- Need help caring for small children.
- Need follow-up care.
If you would like to learn more about becoming a living donor, talk with your doctor.
American Liver Foundation, Living-Donor Liver Transplant, https://liverfoundation.org/living-donor-liver-transplant-an-introduction/
United Network for Organ Sharing, Tests for Living Donation, https://transplantliving.org/living-donation/being-a-living-donor/tests/
UPMC, Who Can Donate a Liver?, https://www.upmc.com/services/transplant/liver/living-donor/candidates
University of Rochester, Living-Donor Liver Transplantation,https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/MediaLibraries/URMCMedia/transplant/documents/living-donor-liver-transplantation.pdf
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Liver Transplant Surgery, https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/liver-transplant/liver-transplant-surgery
UMPC Liver Transplant Program, Frequently Asked Questions: UPMC Living-Donor Liver Transplant Program, https://cdn.upmc.com/-/media/upmc/services/transplant/documents/liver-transplant-faq.pdf?la=en&rev=90822625d33543bba18b7ef08b8a8116&hash=ADC6B404977791EC30846540420BA2BD&_ga=2.225466521.2016490606.1626377682-1559092845.1626377682&_gac=1.115915892.1626377687.Cj0KCQjwub-HBhCyARIsAPctr7wL5SeJnHVdDzwV_j66niQI5kry77sd-VHjPdmgfMROs7QhoJToNEkaAoGbEALw_wcB
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.