What are the risks and complications of living donor liver donation?

There are risks to all surgeries performed under general anesthesia. Surgical risks include:

  • Bleeding
  • Bile leaks
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Nerve damage

Common complications for the donor include:

  • Pain
  • Pneumonia
  • Fatigue due to the large amount of liver that is removed
  • Small bile leaks from the cut surface in the remaining liver
  • Wound infections
  • Gastrointestinal upset (constipation, occasional nausea and diarrhea), which usually go away in a few weeks
  • Hernia at the incision site

There is a small risk that the liver may not regenerate or that the remaining liver fails, in which case an emergency liver transplantation may be required.

The risk of death is 1 in every 1000 liver donors for a left lobe donation and 4 to 6 in every 1000 for a right lobe donation.

What are the benefits to the recipient of receiving a living donor liver compared to a liver received from a deceased donor?

Among the benefits are:

  • The waiting time to receive a liver is short.
  • Patient can receive a liver transplant before he or she becomes too sick. (The waiting time is long for obtaining a deceased donor if the patient has a low MELD or PELD [scoring system for children under 12] score. Also, there is a significant risk of death or of becoming too sick while waiting regardless of MELD score.)
  • A liver from a living donor typically lasts longer than a liver from a deceased donor.
  • Transplant surgery can be schedule on a convenient day for both you and your donor.
  • Better chance of survival. The liver from a healthy, living liver donor is transplanted within minutes of being removed from the donor.

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