Living Liver Donation Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What are the advantages to having a living donor?
A. They are:
• Decreased wait time. Patients are able to receive a transplant sooner than waiting for a deceased donor liver.
• Patients more likely to return to a better quality of life in less time
• The surgery date is set ahead of time. This allows patients and families time to make plans.
Q. What are the risks for the recipient?
A. Living donor transplant is a more complex surgery. There are more risks when you have a live donor liver transplant, such as bile duct problems. Most of these problems can be treated. But there is a risk that it could lead to graft loss or death.
Q. What are the risks involved for the living donor?
A. While the results of adult-to-adult living donor liver transplant are very good throughout the world, it does carry risks for the donor. Some of the risks include, but are not limited to, the list below:
Injury to the bile ducts or blood vessels that remain in the liver. This can result in liver failure and the chance of the donor needing a liver transplant.
Reaction to the anesthesia given during the surgery.
Stroke or heart attack.
Blood clots in the legs or lung.
Fluid around the lung or collapse of a lung (pneumothorax).
Retained fluid (edema).
Mild or severe infections, such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, or wound infections.
Bleeding that results in blood transfusions.
Further surgery needed.
Bile leakage or bile duct problems.
Injury to other organs such as the spleen, stomach, or intestine.
Pain in the incision that doesn’t go away.
Problems with wound healing.
Bowel problems, such as slow or blocked bowels.
Death – The national experience in the United States with living donor liver transplant includes over 4600 live donor liver transplants. There have been four deaths reported in donors in the United States over the past 15 years. This would give a death rate of less than 1 in 1000. However, higher estimates of death rates for this procedure have been discussed, as high as 0.5%, (1 in 200).
There are other risks to think about. These may include:
• Strain on finances and impact on work schedule. Donors should plan on being off work for 8 to 16 weeks. You may learn that being a liver donor could affect your long term job status.
• Problems getting insured in the future. This can include both life and health insurance.
• Changes in mood. This includes problems adjusting, anxiety, or depression.
Q. Who can be a donor?
A. The UW Transplant staff takes great care to review each person's case to see if they will be a good donor. Below are some basic guidelines for who can and cannot be a donor. The transplant team makes a decision based on each person’s individual case.
• A living donor can be related or un-related, and must have an established relationship with the recipient
• A donor must be between 18 and 55 years of age. A donor must be old enough to provide informed consent and young enough to have a healthy liver.
• The donor’s main goal should be to help the recipient.
• The choice to donate must be voluntary without outside pressure, coercion, or financial gain.
• The donor must be in excellent physical and emotional health. The donor must be free of major health issues.
• The donor must have a blood type that is well-matched with the recipient’s blood type.
• Donors must have a body mass index (BMI) less than 35.
• A donor cannot have cancer.
• A donor cannot have any active infections.
• The donor must have normal or near normal liver function and have no history of any liver disease.
• The donor’s liver must have a pattern of blood supply and bile duct placement that are suitable for transplant. Each person’s anatomy is different.
• The donor must have family or friends who can provide support before, during, and after the surgery.
• The donor must be able to plan for up to three months off from work.
• The donor must know and be able to state the risks of living liver donation.
• A donor must have a primary care doctor.
• A donor is strongly advised to have his or her own health insurance. Lack of health insurance may exclude a person from being a donor.
• Costs of donating are billed to the recipient’s insurance. If you have any questions about the financial aspects of donating, please call the Transplant Financial Coordinator at (608) 263-1505.
• Keep in mind that not all patients who need liver transplant can receive a live donor liver. This will also need to be assessed.
Q. Does the donor need to be a relative?
A. Through the medical miracle of live-donor liver transplant, people do not have to be blood related. Any healthy person can give a friend or relative the gift of life. But the donor must have an emotional relationship with the recipient.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 10/09/2012
Copyright © 10/09/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7409
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