Location of the liver in the human body; closeup of its left and right lobe.
Lobes of the liver and position of liver in the body.

What is a living donor liver donation?

When a person has a liver that is failing to function properly, the person must receive a liver transplant to survive. The donated liver can come from either a living or deceased donor. In the case of a living donor, a healthy, living person has agreed to donate a portion of his or her liver.

Why is there a need for living liver donors?

The number of people waiting for a liver on the transplant list is much greater than the number of livers available from deceased donors. Due to this shortage, many patients die or become too sick to receive a liver transplant from a deceased donor by the time one becomes available.

Who can be a living liver donor?

A living liver donor can be a family member or friend of the person with the failing liver or can be an anonymous donor who simply has an unselfish desire to save someone’s life.

Other criteria that must be met to be considered a liver donor include:

  • Must be in good mental and physical health
  • Have no major illnesses, including no history of fatty liver or viral hepatitis
  • Must be between 18 and 55 years of age (can be up to 60 when donating to a small child)
  • Must have a compatible or identical blood type with the person who is to receive the liver (an incompatible blood type can be considered in extreme circumstances)

As a living liver donor, you must not gain financially from donating your liver. It is illegal to accept money or other gifts in exchange for receipt of a portion of your liver. Also, your decision to donate must be 100 percent voluntary. You must not feel pressured by anyone to donate and may decide – at any time – not to donate.

What is the process to become a living liver donor candidate?

Gather information by phone. The first step is to gather some basic contact and general health information. A potential living liver donor must first call the Transplant Office (216-444-1976, option 1) and ask to speak to liver donor office. The receptionist will collect some general information. Next, a liver donor coordinator will call to gather more detailed medical information and answer any questions. A liver transplant surgeon will review all of the information. If the surgeon believes that initial criteria have been met, the coordinator will arrange an in-person evaluation.

Come to hospital for medical tests and interviews. Next, the potential liver donor will undergo 3 to 4 days of interviews and medical evaluations by members of the donor advocacy team. This team consists of the living donor coordinator, social worker, independent donor advocate, liver specialist (for medical evaluation), transplant surgeon (for surgical evaluation), transplant anesthesiologist, and nutritionist. Tests include blood tests, heart tests, and imaging studies with CT and MRI scans. Some potential donors may require additional testing, consultation, and a liver biopsy.

Await the decision from transplant teams. The decision to accept a person as a living liver donor is made by a sequence of transplant teams. First, the donor advocacy team reviews the results of all the tests and interviews and makes a recommendation to the liver transplant selection committee. Both the donor advocacy team and the liver transplant selection committee put the safety of the donor ahead of all other considerations. The liver transplant selection committee makes the final decision and the potential living liver donor is then notified of the decision.

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