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Live Donor Liver Transplants

Living donor liver transplantation can be an alternative to deceased donor liver transplantation for some patients on the waiting list. The ideal candidates are patients who foresee a long wait on the deceased transplant list and experience complications of liver disease, such as ascites and encephalopathy and patients diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma.

What is a Living Donor Liver Transplant?

Living donor liver transplantation requires an operation to remove a portion of a healthy person's liver and put it into a person who has a sick liver. The liver has a right and left side that functions as a unit, although it can be separated in surgery. During a hepatectomy, the liver is divided and either the right or left side is removed and donated for transplant. Within approximately 6-8 weeks both half- livers (of donor and recipient) will grow to full size.

What are the Benefits?

Living donor liver transplantation may be an option to any person who is presently on the liver transplant waiting list. Living donor liver transplantation offers immediate organ availability and is a planned operation which can avoid the progression of the recipient's disease and its life threatening complications. Additionally:

  • A living donor liver is the best quality liver.
  • A living donor transplant will eliminate the long wait time on the national deceased donor waiting list.
  • Living donation maximizes the chance for a recipient to receive a transplant before a recipient’s condition dramatically worsens.
  • The surgery can be timed for optimal health of the recipient and for donor convenience.

Who Can Be a Liver Donor?

The Transplant Team is extremely careful in selecting living donors. Potential donors must meet the following criteria:

  • Be in excellent medical and psychosocial health
  • Be between the ages of 18 and 60
  • Cannot have uncontrolled high blood pressure, liver disease, diabetes or heart disease
  • Be a compatible blood type with the recipient
  • Be emotionally related to the recipient

The Baylor Transplant team will complete an evaluation to determine if candidates can safely donate their liver. This includes:

  • Blood tests
  • CT and MRI of the abdomen
  • Chest X-ray
  • EKG
  • Liver biopsy
  • Physical exam from transplant surgeons on the medical staff
  • Physical exam from a transplant hepatologist on the medical staff
  • Physical exam from a donor advocate physician
  • Social work evaluation
  • Meeting and education with a living donor liver transplant nurse
  • Meeting with a living donor advocate

What to Expect During and After Liver Donor Surgery?

The operation takes between five and seven hours. The donor will have a scar and will be in the hospital for five to seven days. Every donor's recovery time is different but donors typically spend two to four weeks recovering at home. The donor's occupation will determine when they can return to work. It is important that the donor not lift more than 10 lbs. for 12 weeks after liver donation.

What Will It Cost for Me to Donate My Liver?

The donor's medical expenses, including the costs of the evaluation, doctor's fees and hospitalization are usually covered by the recipient's health insurer. Verification of insurance coverage will occur before the donor evaluation process is initiated.

How Do I Get Started?

Donating part of your liver to a friend, family member or other person is a big decision.  At Baylor, we strive to provide an excellent donor experience and personalized care to all donors.  The dedicated living donor team at Baylor Annette C. and Harold C. Simmons Transplant Institute is available to answer all your questions and guide you through the process.

The first step is for you to complete our confidential online health history questionnaire.  See our information card for instructions.  Once it is completed, your information will be reviewed by a living donor coordinator.  If you are a possible candidate, the coordinator will contact you to review your health history questionnaire and answer any questions you have.

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