Frequently Asked Questions About Living-Donor Liver Donation

What are the Risks of Being a Donor?

In general, undergoing any surgical procedure involves risk. The most common risks associated with living donor surgery include pain related to the surgery, bleeding and infection. The main risks include pneumonia, blood clots to the lung, deep vein thrombosis, and side effects from general anesthesia and infection. The risk of death from the surgery is estimated to be between 1/100 - 1/500.

The extensive preoperative evaluation that is performed on the donor is done not only to ascertain if they are candidates for donation, but also to ascertain whether the risk associated with donation outweighs the risks associated with surgery.

What are the Benefits to the Recipient?

One of the main benefits of living donation is the ability to prepare for surgery. The surgery can be done on an elective basis while the recipient is still relatively healthy. The surgical date can be planned around the families and teams schedules.

Typically the healthier the recipient is prior to the transplant, the better the surgical outcome. The goal is to perform transplantation early in the disease process before other organs and systems are affected. Ultimately, patients’ lives will be saved and patients will return to an improved quality of life sooner. This allows for a safer operation, hastens the recovery and improves surgical outcome.

Both the donor and the recipient's livers grow back to full size approximately 3 months after the surgery.

What are the Risks to the Recipient?

The risks of living donation to the recipient are similar to the risks of the conventional cadaver transplant. These include bleeding, infection and rejection. Bleeding and bile duct complications are slightly more common after living donor liver transplantation than after standard liver transplantation.

Overall our success for living donor liver transplantation is similar to that of non-emergent cadaver liver transplantation (about 90%).

How is the Surgery Paid For?

While many insurances cover donor related medical expenses for this procedure, each case will be reviewed separately with the donor by our staff.

Who May Consider Living Donor Liver Transplantation?

All patients waiting for a liver transplant should consider living donor transplantation. The philosophy of the transplant team is that anyone listed for liver transplantation is encouraged to discuss this option with family members and close friends.

What if You Decide Not to Become a Donor?

The decision to become a living donor is a very important personal decision that needs to be made without pressure from the recipient, the recipient’s family or friends. If during the workup process you decide not to pursue living donation, you may simply stop the process. The recipient will remain active on the waiting list and can still pursue other potential donors.

How Do I Get Started?

If you have a family member or friend awaiting a liver transplant and are interested in pursuing living donation, talk about it. If both you and the recipient are in agreement about living donation, the transplant team will assist you with the process.

If you decide to learn more about the procedure, simply call your transplant coordinator at 212-263-8134.